Belfast pubs entrepreneur says vital £500m scheme doesn't drag on for many years

The listed Garfield buildings on North Street, which will form part of the Tribeca regeneration scheme. Picture by Hugh Russell.
Ryan McAleer

ONE of Belfast’s best known pubs entrepreneurs has said progress on the new £500 million Tribeca scheme mustn't be allowed to drag on for decades.

London-based developer Castlebrooke Investments was granted outline planning approval for a revised version of the city centre regeneration project on Tuesday.

Willie Jack of Commercial Court Inns Ltd, whose Cathedral Quarter portfolio includes the Duke of York, Harp Bar, Dark Horse and the Friend at Hand whiskey museum, has welcomed the progress.

It should eventually result in a significant demolition and reconstruction project across 12 acres of Belfast city centre between the Cathedral Quarter and Royal Avenue. A number of listed buildings and facades will be retained.

But Castlebrooke has said that due to the complexities surrounding the remaining planning hurdles, it won’t speculate on when work will begin, or how long it could take.

Mr Jack said it’s vital the project doesn’t drag on for many years.

"We've waited far too long for approval for this particular development, so it's vital there is movement in starting the work and things aren't dragged out for another 10 or 20 years."

The well-known publican has also said that the rates raised from the scheme should be are re-injected into the immediate area to promote arts and culture and further stimulate that part of the city.

"The Tribeca green light could be the catalyst to create a truly vibrant area, one which will be a game-changer for retail, hospitality, arts and culture, and attract even further investment," he said.

Castlebrooke has already spent £55m on Tribeca, previously known as the Royal Exchange, largely for acquiring a massive land bank of property across the area.

It anticipates that the building phase will cost £225m, creating 600 construction jobs.

Estelle Hunt, director of Castlebrooke Investments, said securing outline planning approval represents just the first part of what she labelled an extensive development process.

“At this stage we aren’t in a position to confirm the timeline for starting on site as our focus is on completing the next part of the planning process.

“We have to move through the reserved matters phase and, in line with the planning approval, the application has been sent to the Department for Infrastructure for further consideration.

“This is a large and complex development project with multiple factors at play, not a single building, so it makes no sense to speculate about the expected completion date for the whole scheme.

“Our attention now is on moving forwards with the detailed plans and beginning work on site as soon as possible.”

Glyn Roberts, chief executive of Retail NI said both the council and developer should continue to engage with all key stakeholders to ensure the project delivers for Belfast as a whole.

“The Cathedral Quarter is one of Belfast’s economic drivers and it vital that its vibrant arts and culture sector voice is heard,” he said.

“We want to see Tribeca and all the other new investments help contribute to creating a 21st century city centre. Belfast city centre needs to an open and inclusive place, where all communities can continue to work, live, shop and socialise.”

Tuesday’s planning committee meeting heard that Castlebrooke’s revised proposal attracted 443 objections.

Campaigner group Save CQ remains opposed to Castlebrooke’s plan in its current form. Its biggest concerns surround the scale of demolition, the type of housing proposed and the reduction of public space, notably Writers Square.

The group argued that while the revised masterplan improved on previous proposals, it still does not meet certain policies, including a 20 per cent quota for social housing.

The ultimate decision on the scheme will likely fall to Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe from just £1 for the first month to get full access