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Belfast council expected to grant approval for first phase of £400m Waterside scheme

By Ryan McAleer ·

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An artist’s impression of the first phase of the Belfast Waterside project

The first stage of a £400m regeneration scheme on the site of the former Sirocco Works is expected to be approved by planners at Belfast City Council.

The initial phase of the Waterside development, costing £50m, will see the creation of 250,000 sq ft of grade A office space, including a 13-storey office tower near the Short Strand.

The application, the first in a series linked to the overall scheme, will go before Belfast City Council's planning committee on Tuesday, with a recommendation for approval from officials.

The completed project is expected to feature residential accommodation, an apartment hotel, as well as office and retail space.

The scheme is also intended to include a social housing aspect and a pedestrian/cycle bridge across the River Lagan.

The plans have been submitted by Vanguard Real Estate, the development arm of Swinford (Sirocco) Ltd, a joint venture between the Corbally Group, Graftongate and Gulf Resources Development and Investment (GRDI).

Danish architectural firm Henning Larsen has designed the project.

The first phase is expected to receive full approval on Tuesday evening, with work starting on the site by the end of the year.

Alongside the 13-storey building, the initial stage involves the construction of a mezzanine cafe/bar/restaurant and retail unit on the ground floor, as well as a lobby, basement, deck parking and public realm works.

A pedestrian/cycle route will link in with Bridge End, with temporary pedestrian/cycle access to the riverfront, and access arrangements to Short Strand.

The planning officer's report indicates that the application resulted in just a single letter of objection, regarding parking plans and the potential impact on cycling.

The 31-page document ultimately concludes: "Having regard to the development plan, relevant planning policies and other material considerations, it is determined that the development will not cause demonstrable harm to the interests of acknowledged importance."

While approval is recommended, the planning officer goes on to indicate that authority is delegated to the director of planning and building control in Belfast, to ensure the satisfactory resolution of a number of outstanding issues over air quality, built heritage, natural heritage, flood risk and the design and management of a pop-up park.

Speaking to Ulster Business recently, Chris Kane, who chairs Vanguard Real Estate, said the plan was to "put the spade in the ground this year", with the overall project completed by 2023.

"With phase two, we are going to get the design, the bridge finished, work with public bodies on how best to do that, working on public realm," he added.

"We have the good fortune to be well financed. The site was purchased for cash, so there is no debt on the site."

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An artist’s impression of the first phase of the Belfast Waterside project