Northern Ireland news

Major row emerges between Belfast City Council and key property developer

An artist impression of how the former Crumlin Road Courthouse will look after it has been redeveloped into a new 160-room hotel by Signature Living

A MAJOR row appears to have emerged between Belfast City Council and a key property developer hoping to construct four hotels in the city.

Signature Living boss Lawrence Kenwright, who is behind the transformation of the landmark Crumlin Road Courthouse and the George Best Hotel in the city centre, has even threatened to withdraw £40 million of investment in Belfast.

Serious differences have surfaced between the Liverpool-based hotel developer and the local authority throwing doubt on some of the four projects he has proposed to construct.

He said he had originally planned to invest £80 million into Belfast, but may now "revise that figure", claiming he may reduce his investment by half.

Signature Living Hotel Group is currently involved in four projects in Belfast, including the development of the £15 million George Best Hotel through the renovation of the Scottish Mutual Building.

It is also undertaking the £25 million redevelopment of the historic Crumlin Road Court House to create the Lanyon Hotel and has also previously confirmed that the War Memorial Building on Waring Street will be the location for a 90,000 sq ft hotel featuring 63 bedrooms across four floors.

Earlier this year, Mr Kenwright also outlined ambitious plans to acquire and transform Belfast's Floral Hall into an hotel. The Floral Hall, housed within the grounds of Belfast Zoo, is currently owned by Belfast City Council.

The Signature Living group had hoped to open its first Belfast hotel before the end of this year.

The opening of the 63-bedroom hotel, a joint venture between Signature Living and the family of Belfast-born footballer George Best, has been put back a number of times with speculation it will not officially open until April.

In recent days it has also emerged that Belfast City Council opened an enforcement investigation in relation to the project at the B1 listed building.

It was reported that officials launched the move after architects from the Department for Communities' Historic Environment Division (HED) raised concerns over "unauthorised works" at the landmark building.

After a site visit, they claimed the works which were taking place "fail to be informed by a conservation-led approach".

Signature Living said at the time that the live enforcement investigation related to a complaint made by a neighbouring business, saying this was "due process".

A Belfast City Council spokeswoman last night said "we are not commenting" on the matter.

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