27/04/2011

Housing Experts Back City Apartment Plan

There has been a warm welcome expressed for a proposed apartment development in downtown Belfast - in the face of an apparent fall in the population of the city.

Tom McClelland of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) told BBC NI that it welcomed the "boost for the urban environment".

He was commenting after a property development firm revealed plans to build almost 150 apartments in Belfast city centre.

Village Homes (NI) Ltd has filed a planning application to build 75 apartments at Queen's Square.

There is also a second application that proposes demolishing the former Nambarrie tea warehouse on Waring Street and building 56 apartments in an eight-storey block.

Earlier this month, RICS pointed out that whilst populations in small villages, hamlets and the countryside have all increased, the population in the Belfast metropolitan urban area has fallen.

Backing such fresh developments in the city to help address this issue, the organisation also claimed that an important Northern Ireland Executive strategy 'hasn't delivered' on key objectives relating to climate change, transportation and strategic regional planning.

According to RICS, the NI Regional Development Strategy (RDS) needs to be better linked up with other Government documents.

RICS Northern Ireland Director, Ben Collins, said that the current review of the RDS is timely, and must take into account the pressing need to address climate change and to support efforts to rebalance the local economy.

He said that, to help address climate change, it is essential that population growth occurs in urban areas rather than in rural areas - hence their support for the new Belfast apartment plans.

"We must also see a greater focus on encouraging people onto public transport rather than making journeys by car. This has not been happening in the first 10 years of the strategy," he said.

"We think it is important that a new Regional Development Minister prioritises the publication of a revised strategy soon after the new Executive is in place," the senior RICS spokesman concluded.

(BMcC/GK)

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