Council to consider controversial Markets office plan

By Kevin Sharkey

An artist's impression of how the offices will lookImage source, Kilmona Group
Image caption,
An artist's impression of how the offices will look

Belfast City Council has said it is still considering how to deal with a controversial planning application for a multi-storey office block beside the Markets area.

The council's original approval for the £55m office block was quashed by the High Court in May last year.

Officials have since obtained further independent design advice from a ministerial advisory group.

The issues are currently being considered.

No date has so far been set for sending the application to a council committee for consideration.

The proposed building is up to 14 storeys high.

Campaigners from the Markets community took the case on the grounds the building would impact on their right to privacy.

Image caption,
How the site looks at the moment

Officials also have a separate application for the same site.

It has been received in recent weeks and seeks permission for a single level car park with 244 spaces.

A community group in the Markets is also seeking public access through the privately-owned site for a social and business hub in the nearby Lanyon Tunnels.

Fionntán Hargey from the Markets Development Association said seven of these tunnels would become business units.

"That'll include a gym, a child care facility and a restaurant and social space," he said.

"And one of [the tunnels] is going to be a passageway that'll link the community physically back into Lanyon Place and the wider city centre and Laganside regeneration."

Image caption,
An artist's impression of how the proposed social and business hub would look

In 2016, £1.3m worth of funding for the redevelopment of Lanyon Tunnels into commercial and social units was secured from the Social Investment Fund.

Belfast City Council has also committed £1.3m worth of funding to the project, taking the total allocated to the project in principle to £2.6m.

The community group has appealed to the council to examine new ways to secure the access they need to proceed with their plans for the tunnels.