£75m redevelopment of former Belfast Telegraph office receives planning green light

The mixed-used scheme, known as The Sixth, received planning approval at last night's meeting of Belfast City Council’s planning committee.
Gareth McKeown

THE £75 million redevelopment of the former Belfast Telegraph building has been granted planning permission.

The mixed-used scheme, known as The Sixth, received planning approval at last night's meeting of Belfast City Council’s planning committee.

It paves the way for major development on Royal Avenue, which includes 230,000 sq ft of creative workspace across seven floors, as well as ground floor units for restaurants, cafés and retail.

The development, which could create as many as 2,000 high-value jobs once operational, will also feature Belfast’s first roof top running track.

Councillor Matt Garrett, chair of Belfast City Council’s planning committee, said the scheme will breathe new life into an iconic building.

“The Sixth occupies a strategic location on Royal Avenue that will be a catalyst for further regeneration, bringing a historic heritage building back into use as a forward-thinking workspace for creative businesses."

“The scheme has been specifically designed to respect the existing built heritage in this part of the city, which is set to be further transformed over the next two to three years, and The Sixth will build on the momentum already generated by the Ulster University investment," Mr Garrett said.

A computer-generated image of The Sixth development on Royal Avenue

The pioneering scheme, designed by Stirling Prize-winning architectural practice Alford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM), has been brought forward by Bel Tel LLP, a first of its kind joint venture between McAleer & Rushe and Belfast City Council.

Speaking on behalf of Bel Tel LLP, Belfast City Council chief executive, Suzanne Wylie believes The Sixth will become a "world class" workspace suitable for both local and international occupiers.

The mixed-used scheme will be showcased to prospective investors at international property and development conference MIPIM, taking place in Cannes next month.

"By planning for the future, The Sixth will create real estate that better reflects how and where we work, whilst also bringing back into life a building of significance to our city and media’s commercial heritage," Ms Wylie said.

Stephen Surphlis, property director at McAleer & Rushe said they are looking forward to progressing the build "as quickly as funding is in place to deliver the project".

Meanwhile the Belfast office market reported record take-up in 2018, a new survey shows.

Take-up levels of 885,023 sq ft were more than double 2017 levels and 82 per cent above the five-year average, according to the latest Lambert Smith Hampton Office Market Report.

The annual take-up was driven by the technology, media and telecoms (33 per cent) and professional services (32 per cent) sectors, which accounted for two thirds of activity in the market.

The strong performance was supplemented by the the two single largest lettings of the past decade, PwC’s pre-let of 155,012 sq ft at Merchant Square and the Department of Finance’s 150,000 sq ft lease of Nine Lanyon Place.

Greg Henry, associate director of agency at Lambert Smith Hampton said despite the challenging political climate, Belfast "continues to demonstrate resilience".

"The recent announcement of Deloitte as anchor tenant at Bedford Square suggests that take-up will remain strong into 2019. New entrants are taking advantage of the talent, clusters and ultrafast broadband benefits that Belfast offers while long-standing occupiers are continuing to show their commitment to the city," he added.

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