Transformation of Belfast city centre takes next big step as whopping 724-room student block gets OK

Plans to build a huge block of student accommodation in Belfast city centre have been given the green light by the council’s planning committee.

Friday, 20th August 2021, 8:00 am
Updated Friday, 20th August 2021, 9:48 am
An artist’s impression of the planned building opposite St Patrick’s chapel in Belfast city centre

An application to construct a block including 724 individual units, along with associated courtyards, car parking and access routes was given the go-ahead last night.

The huge student housing block would be just the lastest chapter in the transformation of that part of the city, spurred on by a bigger and more modern Ulster University campus, which is still under construction.

Traditionally, Belfast’s student zone has been concentrated around Queen’s University and the Lisburn Road area, both on the city’s south side.

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But new student accomodation has been appearing closer to the heart of Belfast over recent years, and the proposals brought before council last night represent another big step towards turning the city centre into Belfast’s second student hub.

Originally, there was planning approval for just 226 one-and-two bed apartments, dating all the way back to 2008.

Then in 2015, an application was put in for a 620-capacity student block at the site.

The area stands close to a tightly-packed, republican-dominated neighbourhood called Carrick Hill, and officials had recommended refusing the plans at the time.

In 2016 they had written: “The proposal is contrary to the Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan 2015 as the site is zoned for social housing and if permitted, would prejudice the delivery of social housing in an area of current housing stress.”

The giant, nine-storey structure will also stand opposite some old Georgian homes and the elegant St Patrick’s Catholic Chapel, a Grade B+ listed building.

However, this time the planning officials had recommended that councillors should give the scheme the green light.

Their report concludes: “The design of the proposed building is considered to be an improvement over the previous permission.

“The design, detailing and materiality including tonal red bricked finish reflects the industrial character of this part of the city centre.

“Subtle detailing has helped break up what could be an imposing block and has added significantly to the previously approved design.”

The proposed building itself would be arranged in what the report described as “a U-shape wrapping around part of Donegall Street, Carrick Hill and Little Donegall Street, with two further accommodation blocks protruding into the internal courtyard areas to the rear of the Little Donegall Street side”.

The applicant for the new building is LDS Devco Ltd, based at the Gasworks in south Belfast.

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