Ten of the biggest planning applications approved for Belfast in 2021
2021 saw many planning projects approved by Belfast City Council that will change the character as well as the skyline of the city.
From health parks to office blocks, from train stations to newly pedestrianised performance spaces, here are ten of the most eye-catching planning approvals made for the city last year.
1. Bedford Street Hotel
A new 13 storey Bedford Street hotel got the final nod last February, despite the Stormont Historic Environment Division at the Department for Communities telling councillors the plan would “impact adversely” upon a number of listed buildings in the immediate area.
The plans will involve refurbishment of the existing four storey terrace buildings beside the Pizza Express building on the corner, where Bedford Street turns into Dublin Road. The hotel will sit beside the Park Inn and RBG hotels on Clarence Street.
The proposal involves demolition of portions of the terrace of 29-33 Bedford Street, to create an entrance and thoroughfare to the backland site where the hotel is planned.
2. Kings Hall Health and Wellbeing Park
The final section of the King’s Hall redevelopment plan was approved in March after delays surrounding issues of air pollution.
Elected representatives were asked to approve medical and health services centres, a retirement living plot, a multi storey car park, local retail centres, restaurant and cafe areas, and a plot for leisure and gym facilities.
The plan also involves associated internal access roads, new public realm and amenity open space, including a central plaza and new access from Upper Lisburn Road.
The site is close to Stockman’s Lane beside the M1, which has some of the worst air pollution levels in the UK. Only half of Belfast City Council’s planning committee approved the final stage of the health and residential complex plan.
Six councillors from the DUP and Sinn Fein voted for the plan, two voted against from the Green Party and People Before Profit, while four councillors from Alliance, the SDLP, the Greens and the PUP abstained.
3. Grosvenor Road office block
Also in March, councillors green-lighted a proposal for a fourteen storey office building, landscaping, parking, and associated development at Grosvenor Road, adjoining the Westlink.
The plan involves the demolition of a two storey redbrick building used by a plumbing and heating supplies company, and the erection of an office building ranging from nine to 14 storeys, at a maximum height of 62 metres. It is estimated that 2500 employees will attend the building once operational.
4. Brunswick Street pedestrianisation for performance space
In April the planning committee gave the go-ahead for part of a city centre road to be pedestrianised as a public performance and hospitality space.
Elected representatives unanimously agreed to a temporary measure covering the road surface on Brunswick Street between the James Street South and Franklin Street junctions, behind city hall, in front of the Travelodge. The permission is for a limited period of two years and will expire on April 19 2023.
5. New Yorkgate railway station
In May a new railway station was approved for Yorkgate, with hopes the new build will become a key piece of infrastructure supporting new developments in the area, including the new University of Ulster campus, while linking into the main city line.
It will involve the erection of a new station building, footbridge and platform canopies, as well as the creation of 79 cycle parking spaces, a bus and taxi drop-off area, hard and soft landscape proposals, and the demolition of the existing station building. The proposal also includes a community garden.
Twenty one car parking spaces will be lost in the new development. There will be improved CCTV and improved lighting on the site and inside the underpass.
6. Páirc Nua Chollann
Belfast’s newest park, named Páirc Nua Chollann with council approval in June, opened later in the summer.
The £4.75 million park, is in the southwest Colin area, on the Stewartstown Road, opposite the Colin Connect transport hub and Colin town square. The park’s name translates from the Irish as “Colin New Park.”
Páirc Nua Chollann includes a new play park, pump track, education zone, and extensive new pathways.
The public was consulted over the naming of the park, with a majority local vote opting for the “full” Irish translation Páirc Nua Chollann. It received 317 responses, and accounted for 42.4 percent of the public vote. It replaced a previous option, the English/Itrish hybrid “Páirc Nua Colin.”
The council used its new online consultation platform, “Your Say” to consult on the five options above between 10th May and 31st May 2021. Hard copy questionnaires were also distributed to key community stakeholders.
The consultation received over 900 responses, the vast majority of which came from respondents within the BT17 postcode area.
7. Courts area office block
A new nine-storey office building was approved for the city centre’s courts area, despite opposition from law groups and heritage organisations.
In June at a special Planning Committee, an application by Chancery House Investments Limited was approved to build a 37-metre building comprising a ground floor retail unit and 8 floors of grade A offices, together with cycle parking and plant areas.
The building will be on the site of the old Chancery House, which was demolished in 2020 at 88 Victoria Street, on the edge of Belfast’s law courts and opposite Victoria Square Shopping Centre.
8. Park Avenue Hotel demolition for social housing
The nod was given in October for one of East Belfast’s most iconic landmarks, Park Avenue Hotel, to be demolished and replaced with social housing.
The once-popular 56-room four-star Holywood Road hotel, which opened in 1959, closed its doors over a year ago, and will soon make way for a 90 unit mixed tenure residential development. It will be replaced with a “social-led” development comprising 75 apartments, 11 townhouses and 4 apartments.
9. Student accommodation block off Great Victoria Street
Last month a 15 storey student accommodation block was approved for Belfast City Centre, just off Great Victoria Street. The building will be built on a cleared site bounded by Little Victoria Street, Bruce Street, and Holmes Street, Belfast.
It will tower above its immediate neighbours, on the main connector route between Great Victoria Street and Dublin Road. The proposed red brick building will have 15 storeys with 271 self-contained studios and will have a lower five storey podium base upon which a narrower ten storey element is set back above.
The applicant has promised to deliver the finished building by August 2023 in time for the September 2023 academic year.
10. Forth Meadow community greenway
Throughout last year, sections of the five-part Forth Meadow project were approved by the council, the last being section four, which will see the upgrade of existing access, footways and the cycle path through the Bog Meadows Nature Site. It will include lighting columns, enhanced entrances and street furniture.
The £5.1 million project is funded by the EU Peace IV programme, and will connect existing open spaces in north and west Belfast along a 12 kilometre route from Clarendon Playing Fields to the new Transport Hub in the city centre.
The last section to be approved is the city centre section five, starting at Broadway Roundabout and ending at the new hub. All work on the project is to be completed by autumn 2022.