Minister backs campus redevelopment
A £250 million redevelopment of the University of Ulster's Belfast campus has been given the green light by the planning minister.
But an associated application by the university for a multi-storey car park and retail unit on Frederick Street close to the rebuild on York Street has been recommended for refusal by Alex Attwood and his planning officials.
Both recommendations will go before a committee of Belfast City Council next week. If councillors ratify the campus approval, work could get under way by early summer.
The university welcomed the decision on the redevelopment application and pledged to revisit the car parking issue. When operational, the new campus facility would be used by around 11,290 full time students and around 1,280 staff.
Mr Attwood said the decisions had not been easy.
He said: "I appreciate that the nature, scale and character of the proposal has prompted concerns. I am also fully aware and sympathetic to the concerns and objections on the local residential communities. On balance however the scheme will contribute positively to the economic, social and cultural vitality of the north and west of the city whilst bringing much needed construction jobs."
The minister said he felt the proposal for the car park and retail space was too big. He said: "I have taken concerns on board so I have recommended refusal for the mixed use scheme at Frederick Street car park. I feel that a 487-space multi storey car park and over 700 square metres of retail space are too large and would have too great an impact on local residents."
The university's Vice-Chancellor Professor Richard Barnett said the new campus would provide benefit to all of Belfast and Northern Ireland.
He said: "In March 2012, the University of Ulster submitted a planning application for its new £250 million Belfast city campus which will provide our students and staff with a dynamic, state of the art learning and research facility in the heart of the city.
"We believe our vision of an open and publicly accessible city campus will also have significant benefits for the city of Belfast and for Northern Ireland as a whole, including those communities around our campus - creating educational, economic, social and cultural opportunities for people of all backgrounds."