Northern Ireland

'A Holyland in the sky': Opposition to Belfast student flats plan

A digger working at the proposed site for the flats
Image caption An eight-storey block of student flats has been proposed for a site near Shaftesbury Square

More than 50 residents are opposing plans for a tower block for students in south Belfast that they have claimed will be a "Holyland in the sky".

Belfast City Council is set to consider a proposal to build a student housing block near Shaftesbury Square.

People living nearby fear the eight-storey building of more than 150 rooms would lead to anti-social behaviour.

They said it would resemble the city's largely student Holyland area that has seen serious disturbances in the past.

Image caption Ernie Purvis said he and others on his street to the would be "on the frontline" if trouble broke out

Pensioner Ernie Purvis's home in Pakenham Street is just a few metres from the site of the proposed tower block.

He said: "The local people are calling this development the Holyland in the sky.

"That's what we could be facing in this area, a high-rise Holyland.

"I am worried about lack of car parking spaces, students socialising at all hours, noise, late-night drinking."

Image copyright Lacuna Developments
Image caption The proposed block would be "controlled and well managed", the developers have said

Developer Anthony Best, from Lacuna Developments, defended the scheme that, if approved, will be aimed at students from Queen's University and Stranmillis College.

"It will not be a Holyland in the sky," he said.

"It will be controlled and well managed.

"This is a purpose-built student accommodation that will be managed by our operator Fresh Student Living, which manages 8,000 beds across numerous cities in the UK."

Image caption Some Orange Order parades pass along the road next to the proposed site for the tower block

Belfast City Council recently granted planning permission for two student blocks on the northern fringes of the city centre.

But the residents close to the site of this latest housing plan have written to lodge their objections to it.

They said that if students who currently live in the Holyland occupy the new block and carry out traditional St Patrick's Day celebrations it could increase community tensions.

"There is no point hedging this issue," Mr Purvis said.

Image caption Anthony Best said he did not consider the area to be a "flashpoint" for disorder

"[Students] come down wearing tricolours around them going to the parade at the City Hall.

"If the students start that there, what are these fellas down here going to do?

"You are in between two loyalist areas here - Donegall Pass on this side and Sandy Row on the other, and the students in between.

"Do you not think that would be a potential for trouble?"

Image caption Mr Purvis said he had concerns about the lack of parking for students

In its submission opposing the scheme, the Donegall Pass Community Forum said the street along which the flats could be built "is a main route for some Belfast Orange Order parades".

"This development has the potential for violence," it added.

Mr Best said the proposed development is a £7m regeneration scheme.

Image caption The proposed site for the flats is just metres from houses on Pakenham Street

"It is a city centre site, it is on a main arterial route into the city," he said.

"We do not consider it as a flashpoint area.

"We think it is an appropriate development in this location."

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