£110m Belfast city centre plan 'not shelved'

Image caption,
Part of Belfast city centre is to be redeveloped

A multi-million pound redevelopment of a run-down part of Belfast city centre has not been shelved, the Department of Social Development has said.

Detailed plans for the £360m regeneration scheme - known as the Royal Exchange - are due to be lodged with planners later this year.

£110m was to have been allocated to it this financial year.

However, the department said as the scheme was not as far along as planned the payment was on hold.

"We do not need to spend the money in this financial year as we are not as far along implementing the scheme as was envisaged in the autumn of 2007," the department said.

"That does not though mean that the scheme has been shelved as we have signed the agreement with the developer who must submit the planning application by 31 October 2010.

"We will allocate the money to the scheme when it is actually needed and would now like to use some of the money set aside for it for regeneration projects to renew our urban centres, increase confidence in our neighbourhoods and provide much needed jobs in the construction sector."

A spokesman for Royal Exchange Limited added: "The Royal Exchange project is not on hold.

"The timetable has been agreed with DSD and we continue to undertake the detailed work that will allow us to submit our planning application later this year."

"We are pleased that DSD has today confirmed its commitment to the scheme."

The project aims to transform a square mile area between Donegall Street and Royal Avenue.

The former DSD Minister Margaret Ritchie has previously said the scheme could create 2,000 construction and 1,000 permanent jobs in retail and leisure.


The current DSD minister Alex Attwood said he would be battling to make sure as much of the £110m as possible is returned to his department.

He added: "I believe I will win the argument with my executive colleagues - that this essential work in the developing of town centres, in Downpatrick, in Belfast, in Dungannon and in Derry is of such priority that the lion's share of the Royal Exchange money will be returned to my budget."

Mr Attwood emphasised that the return of money intended for the Royal Exchange would help to relieve pressure on the executive's budget which is facing cuts of £500m.

He said that the return of a portion of the money to his department for redevelopment of town centres would create a "win-win" situation.

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