Primark fire: Council set to approve plans for start of work at Bank Buildings

Plans that would permit conservation-led works to get under way at the burnt out Bank Buildings in Belfast City Centre are likely to be given the green light by Belfast City Council later this week.

The local authority’s Planning Committee will meet this Friday (October 26) to consider Primark’s listed building consent application for the property.

The burnt out remains of the Primark store in Belfast city centre

The burnt out remains of the Primark store in Belfast city centre

The planning officer’s report that will go before members for consideration recommends that consent be given, subject to conditions.

Work to take down the most unstable parts of the property will allow steps to be taken to shrink the safety cordon around the site, restoring pedestrian access along Royal Avenue. And Primark has vowed to start the works as soon as possible after it receives legal consent.

The application from Primark – owners of the historic building at Castle Junction, which was destroyed by fire in August – seeks consent for conservation-led works involving the taking down, recording and assessment of Bank Buildings above the fourth floor cornice line to Bank Street, Castle Street and Royal Avenue, including six chimneys – the most unstable parts of the building.

Undertaking this work would allow work to start on the remainder of the building, to make it safe through a façade retention scheme. The work will also make it possible to shrink part of the cordon and restore pedestrian access between Royal Avenue and Donegall Place, subject to health and safety considerations as work takes place.

Councillor Matt Garrett, chairman of the council’s Planning Committee, said: “Since the devastating fire at Bank Buildings, we have been working tirelessly with Primark to find a way forward. Council has given a commitment to do all within its power to restore the city centre to the very vibrant place we know it to be, and thanks to our officers we have been able to turn round this application without delay, in just three weeks, and have called a special meeting of the council’s Planning Committee in order to expedite this process.”

He added: “We recognise the urgency for businesses, both inside and outside the cordon, to ensure their economic resilience in the run-up to Christmas and beyond. As such, council has stated in its conditions of consent that it expects Primark to begin works as soon as practically possible, following the issue of this consent.

“While the cordon is absolutely necessary to ensure the health and safety of the public, we are conscious of the significant impact it is having on trade, and so we will continue to work with Primark to move forward and ensure the required works are completed as soon as possible.”

Welcoming the publication of the planning officer’s report, a spokesperson for Primark said: “Primark is aware that Belfast City Council has published the first phase of our Bank Buildings listed building consent application.

“We welcome the council’s support for our proposal and await full authorisation from the Planning Committee, which is due on 26 October. Once we have received legal consent, we will start work as soon as we can.”

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