Business

Bid for retirement complex raises questions over future of Stormont Hotel

An artistic impression of what Summerhill Retirement Developments is proposing for the Stormont Hotel site.

THE long-term future of the Stormont Hotel in east Belfast looks uncertain after a new company outlined ambitions to turn the site into a retirement living complex.

The hotel on the Upper Newtownards Road is still owned and operated by the Hastings Group, which also owns the Europa and Grand Central hotels.

But start-up company Summerhill Retirement Developments Ltd has embarked on a planning exercise to explore the feasibility of turning the hotel and wider site into a care home with assisted living apartments for the over 55s.

In a statement, Hastings described it as “a speculative planning exercise being undertaken by a third party”.

“There is no impact on the staff retention of the Stormont Hotel. There will be no discussions in relation to redundancies or hotel closure and all future discussions related to such are subject to Summerhill’s feasibility assessment and continued interest. 

“All existing accommodation and event bookings remain unaffected.”

While Hastings said it has no plans to close the hotel, the statement added: "The group does, however acknowledge the external interest in the site’s potential, its benefits and that of the Upper Newtownards Road locale."

Formerly a period house owned by the McMaster family, the 10-bedroom property was bought by Sir William Hastings in 1966 and redeveloped into a hotel. Now boasting 106 bedrooms, the hotel is a popular venue for events and conferences.

It currently employs 75 people.

Planning firm Turley, which is conducting a pre-application community consultation on behalf of the applicant, described Summerhill as “a new independent investment-backed venture exploring later living residential opportunities in Northern Ireland”.

Turley said the new firm, incorporated in April 2022, is “led by a team that has decades of experience in later living residential and healthcare development”.

Summerhill has just entered the pre-application phase, required for all major projects. But the firm is currently seeking outline planning permission, meaning any development of the site will require additional detailed planning applications in future.

If successful, it could eventually see the Hastings Hotels’ portfolio reduced further. The family-owned hospitality group sold the Slieve Donard Hotel in Newcastle last October, and it’s understood Hastings has also been approached by at least two potential buyers for the Culloden Estate in the Holywood Hills, outside Belfast.

A spokesperson on behalf of Summerhill Retirement Developments Limited: “We look forward to engaging with the local community regarding our proposals for the development of a new retirement living complex on the Upper Newtownards Road.

“With Northern Ireland’s growing ageing population, we believe it is a timely decision to assess the feasibility of these residential and adaptive care proposals that aim to maintain people’s health and independence for longer.”

Further details of the proposed retirement living complex will be presented at a public exhibition event at the Stormont Hotel on Thursday August 18 2022 (3pm-7pm). Full details are on summerhillretirement.co.uk.