Northern Ireland

University of Ulster to unveil £250m building plans

The University of Ulster has bought up a large swathe of land in Belfast's north inner city to house its new £250m campus.

Detailed plans which include a glass 10-storey building in York Street, will be revealed next week.

The main Mall building at Jordanstown - where generations of students gathered between lectures - will be demolished.

The majority of the university's 14,000 Jordanstown students will be relocated to the new Belfast campus.

The building programme will be the largest single investment in the university's history.

It is understood the university plans to fund most of the ambitious relocation from private finance - similar to taking out a 25-year mortgage.

A financial contribution will be expected from the executive.

Detailed plans for the development will be submitted to the Department of the Environment at the end of next month, and if approved, construction will begin once planning approval has been granted, according to sources at the university.

Image caption Most of the students at Jordanstown will be re-located to the new Belfast campus

The Education and Learning Scrutiny Committee at Stormont was briefed on the plan this week.

Committee chair Basil McCrea described the plans as "astonishing".

"It's fantastic, it's great. Breathtaking is what you'll see when you see the plans unveiled.

"It's is a really good thing for north Belfast and the whole city," he said.

He said it would have cost £100m to repair the building in Jordanstown, so it was thought a new development was a better option.

"The commercial reality is that the university had to keep fairly quiet about what it was doing because, had it become known that they were looking for property in the area, then the price would have gone up.

"That would be normal commercial practice.

"They have been both clever and fortunate in that they have been able to put together a parcel of land that lets them do a really audacious plan, without having to bring in compulsory purchasing or any of the other delays that might hold things back."

He said, in theory, the plans could be approved in six months, with work beginning by the end of the year.

The new campus will be built on land on both sides of York Street between the junction of Donegall Street and Frederick Street.

The university has been involved in land acquisition in the area for some time, and has cashed in on the property crash, buying land at knock down prices.

It currently owns the former Co-Op building, and has bought the Interpoint centre which once housed the Department of Culture and Learning.

It also owns the former York House office block and the Playboard building.

The university will retain a presence at Jordanstown.

Student accommodation blocks, sports facilities and the fire safety research institute will remain, but older parts of the Jordanstown buildings including the Mall will be demolished - probably in 2018 if the new building programme goes according to schedule.

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