Approval secured for Belfast’s first Build to Rent scheme

Planning permission has been granted for Belfast’s first ‘Build to Rent’ apartment scheme – a 16 storey, 52m tall building on Academy Street in the Cathedral Quarter.

The proposal was unanimously approved by Belfast City Council. It is the fifth scheme in the city by joint venture Lacuna Watkin Jones, which has invested a total £120m over the past three years.

Planning consultancy Turley advised on planning and strategic communications aspects of the development proposals and work is now expected to start in January 2019 – with completion scheduled for early 2020.

Responding to the decision to grant planning permission for the 90-apartment scheme, Anthony Best, managing director at Lacuna Developments, said:

“We are delighted by Belfast City Council’s Planning Committee deciding to unanimously approve our latest proposals for Belfast City Centre. This scheme is a direct response to Belfast City Council’s exciting ambitions to improve the city and particularly to increase the city centre’s residential population. This decision reflects the hard work of Belfast City Council’s planning department, the planning committee and its senior leadership team, and it builds upon the growing image of Belfast as a vibrant place open for high quality investment.

“The £15 million development proposals are the latest stage of the Lacuna Watkin Jones partnership, which has invested more than £120 million in the city to date. We look forward to delivering a high-quality project in Belfast City Centre and are aiming to begin construction early next year. The proposal is the first ‘build to rent’ accommodation in the city.”

The 16-storey landmark development has been designed by award winning architects Feilden Clegg Bradley, responsible for the nearby Ulster University campus.

Sam Tyler, partner at Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios said:

“The building form and materials take cues from the city’s industrial heritage. The project will dramatically improve the quality of the built environment in the area and make a positive contribution to the city as a whole. The 90 residential units will add vibrancy to this quarter of the city and provide diversity of residential type to balance the emerging student residential schemes. We sought to compliment adjacent historic buildings with high quality contemporary architecture and are pleased that the building’s design has received support and been granted permission by the city council.”

The new form of accommodation is designed to appeal to urban professionals, small families, corporate renters, visiting professionals and downsizers looking for quality and accessible accommodation designed around flexible city centre living.

According to the developers Belfast is already playing catch-up with other cities, and this approval illustrates that Belfast is open to ‘Built to Rent’. The model marries city centre apartments with services more commonly associated with the hospitality sector like a concierge, management, communal amenity space and a ground floor café.

Michael Gordon, head of planning for Northern Ireland at Turley, added:

“This is potentially the beginning of a new trend for Belfast. Academy Street will be the first scheme to introduce build to rent accommodation, a new form of city living that will help Belfast City Council meet its ambitious target to deliver 8000 new homes in the city centre. We are proud to have been part of the team to deliver a planning approval for this building.”