29/10/2010

Royal Exchange To Boost Belfast North

Fears that the multi-million pound redevelopment of a run-down part of Belfast city centre had been shelved have again been refuted this week with news that a planning application has been submitted.

The application came five years after the Royal Exchange project was announced.

In May this year, Belfast City Council voiced its concern at reports that plans might be delayed, as at the time, detailed plans for the £360m regeneration scheme were still due to be lodged with planners.

It aims to redevelop an area between Royal Avenue and the Cathedral Quarter on the northern side of the city centre.

The company behind the plan, Leaside Investments, is a consortium of two Northern Ireland firms William Ewart and Snoddons and a Dutch firm ING.

The Royal Exchange Scheme was first announced by the government in 2006 with the aim to regenerate run down and semi derelict parts of Belfast city centre.

The area between Donegall Street and Royal Avenue takes in the historic North Street arcade which was burnt down in 2004.

The listed building has not been touched since and there has been criticism that the project has not moved quickly enough.

The plans for the development include more than 200 apartments, a hotel, an arts centre, car parks and retail units.

Developers have signed an agreement with the Department of Social Development which will mean the scheme will receive some public funding.

Social Development Minister Alex Attwood welcomed the lodging of the planning application.

"I would encourage all stakeholders and the general public to provide their views on the application as it proceeds through planning," Mr Attwood said.

Back in May, Councillor William Humphrey, Chairman of the Belfast Council's Development Committee, said he was alarmed at suggestions that the funding which had been made available for the Royal Exchange Regeneration Scheme has been 'surrendered' by DSD and the project is 'not likely to progress' in the timescale originally indicated.

Sinn Féin MLA and member of the DSD Committee, Fra McCann, had also called on the NI Minister for Social Development, Alex Atwood to provide clarity in regards to the delays facing the Royal Exchange development in Belfast.

(BMcC/GK)

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