Outline planning approval has been granted for a revised version of the ‘Tribeca’ development in Belfast.
The £500m project, by Castlebrooke Investments, proposes to regenerate the city’s Cathedral Quarter.
A vote on a revised masterplan, which will retain more of the area’s historic buildings, received backing by Belfast City Council’s planning committee.
The council received more than 450 letters of objection to the development and five letters of support.
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Castlebrooke Investments has properties on 12 acres between Royal Avenue and the Cathedral Quarter, a project formerly known as Royal Exchange.
The developer, who put the new plan to a voluntary 10-week public consultation, said it would “incorporate a greater degree of retention of non-listed building fabric which further retains the best elements of the historic streetscape”.
Planning permission has already been granted for the first phase, with Tuesday night’s approval covering the remaining two thirds of the site.
Jonathan Mitchell, director of Castlebrooke Investments, said: “We have been working on Tribeca Belfast for many years and it is fantastic to see such a significant step forward taking place today.
“We listened to the concerns of interested parties through our voluntary public consultation process and this effort has been recognised by Belfast City Council.
“Our attention now turns to moving forwards with our detailed plans and beginning work on site as soon as possible.”
The project has been opposed by campaigners from the group SaveCQ (Save Cathedral Quarter).
It had urged councillors to reject the new plans and described it as “yet another planning application that will only inflate land prices and push more people out of the city, with an ill-conceived scheme that is unbuildable in its current form”.
Agustina Martire, who chairs the campaign group, is a lecturer in architecture at Queen’s University, Belfast.
“Our biggest concerns are the reduction of public space at Writers Square; the amount of demolition – which is over 75% of the existing fabric – and the type of housing that is provided by the project,” she said.
She said the one and two-bedroom residential accommodation proposed in the plan was “not really suitable for families” and was not type of “lifelong homes that we would like to see in that area”.
Ms Martire added that the revised proposal still did not meet the 20% quota for social housing “stipulated in the local development plan”.
The chairwoman also argued that Writers Square was an important public space in Belfast city centre and claimed the Tribeca’ development would reduce that public space to “at least half of what it is now”.
She said SaveCQ campaigners accept that the Cathedral Quarter “desperately needs development” but want the regeneration to be of a good standard and accessible to the people of Belfast.
Ms Martire said the revised masterplan was an improvement on the 2017 proposal but still did not comply with a lot of the principles that SaveCQ has been advocating for.
The outline plans will now have to go to the Department of Infrastructure before they can be fully approved.