Markets' residents challenge new £55 million office development near homes

.Save the Market's protest outside the High Court in Belfast. Picture by Hugh Russell.

APPROVING a new £55 million office development beside inner city homes in Belfast unlawfully breached residents' rights to privacy, the High Court heard today.

Lawyers representing the Market community claimed building up to 14 storeys-high would be invasive and overshadow homes in the area.

They also contended that those who gave the green light to the construction were misinformed and failed to properly assess the impact on the area.

Liam McCollum QC contended: "We say the decision clearly falls to be quashed."

Proceedings were issued against Belfast City Council after it accepted a planning application for the development at Stewart Street and East Bridge Street, near Central Station.

The 26,000 square metre Grade A office block is expected to create 350 construction jobs and generate permanent employment for 2,500 people.

But more than 200 households in the adjoining neighbourhood have objected to it being given the go-ahead.

They insist it will seriously impact on their right to privacy and quality of life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

One resident, Elizabeth Conlon, brought the challenge on behalf of a wider group within the Market community.

An office tower on such a scale is in stark contrast to the traditional two-storey social housing in the area and inconsistent with its sense of community spirit, according to their case.

As opponents to the office block packed the courtroom, Mr McCollum emphasised the case involved a public law challenge to the legality of the decision.

"There was a failure by the respondent to properly take account of Article 8 rights of the residents," he argued.

The barrister alleged the decision was ill-informed, misinformed and inconsistent with planning history on the site.

"This was not properly taken into account," he contended.

Mr McCollum further claimed a financial contribution from the developer was not properly dealt with.

Further points centred on the impact and legal status following a separate case connected to the Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan (BMAP)

Those proceedings resulted in BMAP being left in draft form.

The hearing continues.

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