Business

Benmore Group announces £100m plan to turn Belfast's King's Hall into health centre

The King's Hall, Belfast

THE King's Hall in Belfast is to be turned into a health care centre in a £100 million redevelopment.

Benmore Healthcare Developments has unveiled plans to convert the site, owned by the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society (RUAS), into what it's calling "Northern Ireland’s first fully integrated health and social care hub".

The Benmore Group also wants to build a 160-bed hotel and a gym on the site in addition to restaurants, cafes and shops.

It said the development, once complete, would support 500 jobs.

It will be a major transformation for the south Belfast site which at one point was the premier events venue in Northern Ireland.

It was most famous for hosting the Balmoral Show before it moved to a new site at the former Maze prison site.

But it also hosted a range of conferences and even boxing matches - Rinty Monaghan, Chris Eubank, Barry McGuigan and Wayne McCullough all fought there.

And the King's Hall and surrounding complex was also the venue for a string of concerts, most recently Bruce Springsteen in 2013, with others down the years including such iconic acts as David Bowie, Nirvana and the Beatles.

The RUAS last year invited proposals on how to make best use of the ageing 16-acre site.

Benmore Group chief executive David Burrows said: "The King’s Hall is a Belfast landmark synonymous for many years with the Balmoral agricultural show. Our plan for King’s Hall is to create a landmark in healthcare".

"We will refurbish the art deco building restoring it to its former glory. Alongside a new adjoining building we will create a modern primary care centre," he said.

“The overall development has a vison to create an integrated healthcare model which will be part of a wider lifestyle, leisure and well-being park. A space with care for the older people, hotel, gym, restaurants, crèche, and modern public and private healthcare facilities all located on one site.

"It will be an example of the highest quality primary and community care, improving people’s health and access to services, and create more than 500 sustainable jobs.”

A pre-application notice has been submitted to Belfast City Council ahead of Benmore seeking full planning permission at a later date.

Although the main King's Hall will be renovated, many of the other existing buildings on the site face demolition including conference facility, showgrounds and stables.

Former Health & Social Care Board chief executive, John Compton is a non-executive director of Benmore Healthcare Developments and advisor to the project.

He said the centre would be accessible to almost 50,000 people.

“Working directly alongside a range of more specialist services that might include district nursing, dentistry and occupational therapists it will significantly improve patient outcomes," he said.

"The site may also provide diagnostic services such as X-ray and near patient testing. These will not only improve outcomes but make it simpler for the citizen to navigate the system.”

The King's Hall was opened in 1934 and was the host for the annual RUAS Balmoral Show until it moved to the newly opened Balmoral Park site at Maze outside Lisburn in 2013.

The RUAS has also built a new exhibition centre Eikon at Balmoral Park largely replicating its former offering in Belfast.

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