Northern Ireland

Approval for £55m Belfast office block formally quashed

An artist's impression of how the offices will look Image copyright Kilmona Group
Image caption An artist's impression of how the offices will look

A High Court judge has formally quashed the decision to approve a new £55m office block beside an inner city housing district in Belfast.

It follows a ruling that Belfast City Council planners had acted unlawfully in giving the green light to the development near Central Station.

The proposed building was up to 14 storeys high in the Markets area.

The judge also awarded the legal costs of campaigners who claimed it would impact on their rights to privacy.

Officials are now expected to reconsider the construction proposals in accordance with the court's findings.

However, campaigners who took the case pledged to continue their fight to ensure the rights of people living in the district are taken into account.

Sinn Féin councillor Deirdre Hargey, who represents the area's constituents, said the community "has been there longer than Belfast City Hall itself".

Image caption The Kilmona Group intends to build around 300,000 sq ft of office space, spread across four blocks

She added: "You wouldn't build a skyscraper next to City Hall, so why would you put it beside one of Belfast's oldest neighbourhoods? The campaign for the right to light will continue."

Members of the Markets community brought the legal challenge against Belfast City Council for giving the go-ahead to the development at Stewart Street and East Bridge Street.

The court previously heard that the Grade A office space would create 350 construction jobs and generate permanent employment for 2,500 people.

However, more than 200 households in the adjoining streets objected, insisting it would be invasive and overshadow homes.

They mounted a campaign under the slogan 'Sunshine not skyscrapers'.

Image caption A model of the office blocks shows the scale of the proposed development

One resident, Elizabeth Conlon, issued judicial review proceedings on behalf of the wider group within the Market community.

Outside court, a lawyer who represented the residents said: "It's possible that the developer's application may make its way before a newly constituted planning committee in order to properly apply the judge's findings."

Ms Hargey stressed the residents were prepared to work with those behind the office block, but added: "They have to take into account the needs of the community."

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