Tribeca: Landowner applies to renew planning approvals after five year time limit expires

Derelict and empty properties on Belfast's North Street, which is included in the Tribeca proposals. Picture by Hugh Russell.
Derelict and empty properties on Belfast's North Street, which is included in the Tribeca scheme. Picture by Hugh Russell.

THE company that owns the properties involved in the stalled Tribeca development scheme in Belfast city centre has applied to renew a number of planning approvals after they expired in the past week.

Project Goat Limited has planning permission for more than 40 proposals relating to the 12 acre site bounded by Royal Avenue and Donegall Street.

The applications are part of a proposed £500 million scheme launched in 2017 by London-based Castlebrooke Investments, which became known as Tribeca Belfast.

Despite the planning approvals, no meaningful work has commenced in the area, with many of the buildings falling into a state of dereliction.

The five year time limit on some of those applications has now expired.

Project Goat is back in the planning system this week after four approvals lapsed on March 10.

Once planning officials issue a decision notice, applicants generally have five years to commence work.

Many more approval notices are set to expire over the coming weeks and months.

North Street in Belfast, which will be redeveloped under the Tribeca Scheme. Picture by Hugh Russell.
'Phase 1B' of the Tribeca scheme centres on Lower Garfield Street, home to the former Garfield Bar. Picture by Hugh Russell.

Castlebrooke and its investment partners acquired the entire scheme, formerly known as the Royal Exchange, from Cerberus in early 2016.

Although launched as a Castlebrooke project, the land and properties belong Project Goat Limited.

Project Goat is jointly owned by Castlebrooke’s chief executive Neil Young and London-based Revcap (Real Estate Venture Capital) Advisors.

Revcap is untimely owned by Andrew Pettit, who is also the co-owner of English league two side Grimsby Town FC.

The applications to renew the planning approvals have been submitted an employee at the Bristol office of property firm Savills in the name of PG Ltd, short-form for Project Goat.

The latest accounts for Project Goat Ltd, which relocated to Sheffield in 2022, show it owed £39m in loans as of June 2022.

But the interest accrued on its loans reached £52.2m at the end of June 2022, increasing at a rate of around £1.2m per month.

The assets of Project Goat Limited were valued at £34.9m, putting its net liabilities at £56.3m.

Documents published on the Northern Ireland Planning Portal reveal the four applications attracted £16,702 in fees, which were paid to Belfast City Council.

The four applications centre on the area of the Tribeca scheme known as ‘phase 1B’, which is located between Royal Avenue, North Street and Rosemary Street.

The ‘phase 1A’ area is located around Lower Garfield Street, where the roof of the former Garfield Bar was removed in 2018.

‘Phase 1B’ is a largely office-based scheme, featuring around 100,000 sqft of offices along with 30,000 sqft of retail space, 17,000 sqft of hosptiality space and 11,000 sqft of community space.

Just a handful of apartments are included in the ‘phase 1B’ proposal.
A visual previously submitted as part of the 'phase 1B' application.

The demolition of 53 Royal Avenue, previously occupied by Nationwide, and 27-31 Rosemary Street, currently occupied by B&M Stores, is also part of the plans.

The restoration of three listed buildings also feature: Central Halls, Masonic Hall and 41-51 Royal Avenue.

Part of 41-51 Royal Avenue would be demolished under the plans, to allow for a five storey rear extension.

The application renewals come after Neil Young met with a number of political parties in Belfast last month.

The Irish News previously reported how a fallout over the ownership of Writers’ Square on Donegall Street was at the centre of a stalemate between Castlebrooke and the Department for Communities (DfC).

The developer claims it needs to acquire the publicly owned space in order to progress the social housing aspect of its wider proposals for Tribeca.

Social housing provision is one of the key issues contained in the section 76 legal agreement between the developer and Belfast City Council, which validates the outline planning approval for Tribeca.

Writers' Square.
Writers' Square, which remains in public ownership.

Social housing would need to be developed before other residential schemes could progress.

Writers’ Square is home to a social housing scheme operated by Choice, which would be demolished under Castlebrooke’s proposals.

However, a separate section 76 agreement exists for the ‘phase 1B’ aspect of Tribeca.

The agreement between Belfast City Council, Project Goat and Jersey-based lender Sparrowhawk Properties, which was signed in March 2019, does not make reference to social housing provision.

Castlebrooke Investments was contacted for comment.