Approval for massive 795-bed student scheme in shadow of UU campus

The new scheme will be build at Union Street in Belfast
The new scheme will be build at Union Street in Belfast The new scheme will be build at Union Street in Belfast

APPROVAL is being recommended for Belfast's latest - and by far biggest - purpose-built student accommodation block in the shadow of the new £370 million Ulster University campus.

Belfast City Council planners are expected to give the green light to a multi-million pound 795-bedroom scheme on an island site between Library Street, Little Donegall Street, Stephen Street and Union Street.

Mandeville Developments are behind the scheme at a site which is currently being used as a surface car park, behind the former Frames building and adjacent to the old Belfast Telegraph headquarters, now known as The Sixth.

But when it opens next year, it will go only some way to meeting the student accommodation in the area.

The new UU campus opened its doors to 15,000 students and staff in September, and last year UCAS reported that 9,600 students started under-graduate courses in Northern Ireland in the current academic year, adding to demand for accommodation that has grown during the previous two years.

Colin Donaldson, director for Mandeville Developments NI Ltd, said: “Intake across both universities has grown during the pandemic, and as students have moved back into the city and classes have returned full time, we have seen the demand rise beyond what we anticipated when we chose to invest in Belfast and support regeneration in the city centre.

“We understand from both universities and the further education college that demand for quality managed accommodation in the city will continue to grow and outstrip approved or existing supply.”

He added: “Throughout the planning process we have had very positive engagement with businesses and the local community to ensure our proposed designs respect the character of nearby listed buildings and can support the delivery of wider residential accommodation in the area, as outlined by Belfast City Council’s Inner North West Masterplan.

“We are delighted that we have received overwhelmingly positive feedback during our community consultation which engaged more than 750 people and reached more than 17,000 citizens in person and online.

“We have been able to respond to constructive feedback from the consultation and planning officers to refine the design of the building, and we welcome their recommendation to approve the application.”

Philip Stinson, director of planning consultants Turley added: “This part of the city has a vibrant history reflected in the heritage architecture and is set to become one of the most exciting and bustling parts of the city centre with Belfast City Council’s plans for ‘Belfast Stories’ a new visitor attraction and building on the positive impact of the University.

“We welcome the positive recommendation by officers and encourage the committee to support the proposals that will both meet a continued need for managed student accommodation and support wider regeneration.”

A spokesperson for Like Architects, who will lead the design along with project managers WT Partnership, said: “We’re delighted Belfast City Council has recommended this application for approval. It presents a fantastic opportunity to drive the growth and regeneration of the area surrounding Library Street, where a dense urban grain once existed.

“The development not only repairs the built fabric of the Union Street locale but also creates a contemporary architecture which resonates with the site’s industrial past, adding much needed vitality and diversity to this part of Belfast.”