New bid launched to demolish UTV's former Havelock House headquarters for social housing scheme

An early CGI produced in support of Lotus Property's social housing proposal at Havelock House, the former base for UTV (inset).

NEW plans have been announced to demolish the former Belfast headquarters of UTV to make way for a new residential development.

Lotus Property, part of the Banbridge-based group behind the Junction and Boulevard retail parks, has launched a bid to redevelop Havelock House into a social housing scheme.

The proposal, which involves the demolition of the vacant Ormeau Road building, would see around 100 social homes developed in association with the Clanmil Housing Association.

The last bid to clear the site to make way for a new build residential development was launched by Olympian Homes in 2019, one year after UTV made the move to its new base at City Quays 2.

The proposal for the 270 build-to-rent apartments inspired the creation of the opposition campaign group, ‘Save Havelock House’, which appeared to succeed when Belfast City Council’s planning committee rejected the bid in November 2020, against the recommendation of its own officials.

Olympian Homes subsequently failed in a bid to appeal the decision the following year.

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And despite initiating a fresh application in May 2022, the group sold the site to Lotus earlier this year.

Lotus has now submitted a proposal of application notice (PAN) to Belfast City Council on its bid for 100 social units, triggering a 12 week community consultation.

Subject to the outcomes of that process, a full planning application will be expected to follow early next year.

Havelock House was home to UTV for almost six decades.

Despite the continued campaign to promote the retention of Havelock House “for the benefit, enjoyment and education of the people of Northern Ireland”, the level of demand for social housing in the city is expected will likely put the council’s planning committee in a difficult position.

Alastair Coulson, managing director at Lotus Property said: “We believe passionately that Clanmil’s knowledge of the sector and professionalism of service delivery is key to ensuring this development delivers homes that people will be proud of.

“The next 12 weeks will be about listening to stakeholders and local communities about these draft plans. We look forward to hearing all views and considering them in our plans.”

UTV's original headquarters, Havelock House.

Jan Sloan from Clanmil Housing added: “We are currently facing a housing crisis in Northern Ireland with social housing waiting lists at c45,000 - the highest they have been in 10 years – and at Clanmil, we are committed to playing our part in addressing this need.

“Social housing also has an important role to play in the regeneration of Belfast and in contributing to the Council’s ambition to grow the city by 66,000 residents by 2035.

“This is another landmark project for Belfast city centre and the types of homes to be provided has been carefully considered and responds directly to the housing need for Belfast now and in the future.

“We look forward to hearing the views of all those with an interest in good homes over the coming months.”

Speaking to The Irish News, a spokesperson for the 'Save Havelock House' campaign said it would be premature to comment on the new proposal before seeing the details.

But he added: "Our general position is well-established: We are supportive of developments which preserve the building's historic architecture and are supported by the local community.

"We look forward to meeting Lotus Property to discuss their plans in due course."