The Planning Manager provided the Committee with the details of the application which included the demolition of portions of the terrace of 29-33 Bedford Street in order to create an entrance and thoroughfare to the rear of the site where a 13-storey aparthotel was proposed. The application also sought part change of use from art galleries to two cafes on the ground floor, with offices within the existing buildings at the second, third and fourth floors to be retained.
He outlined the key issues which had been considered in the assessment of the proposed development, including the principle of hotel and café use at the location, the impact on built heritage and the principle of demolition in the conservation area, scale, height, massing and design, the impact on traffic and parking, site drainage, the consideration of economic benefits, amenity and developers contributions.
The Members were advised that the site was located within the city centre, the Commercial Character Area and the Linen Conservation Area.
The Planning Manager advised that the proposal would generate an estimated 216 direct construction jobs, 129 indirect construction jobs and an economic output (GVA) of £27.6m throughout the construction period. In addition, he explained that the proposal would generate an estimated 116 full-time equivalent jobs once operational.
The Planning Manager explained that DfI Roads, Environmental Health, the NI Environment Agency, Rivers Agency, Historic Environment Division (HED) and NI Water had all been consulted, in addition to the Urban Design Officer, the Conservation Officer, the Economic Development unit and the City Regeneration and Development Team within BCC.
He advised that both HED and the Conservation Officer were now content with the design and proposed interventions to the front terrace, however, they maintained an objection to the 13-storey element on the basis of height, in that they felt it was too dominant on the existing listed building. The Committee was advised that officers felt that the design was respectful to its surrounding environment
The Committee was advised that no objections and one letter of support had been received.
The Committee’s attention was drawn to the Late Items pack. The Planning Manager explained that the applicant had been advised that, as the aparthotel rooms did not meet residential standards, a condition was required to ensure they were not used for residential purposes. He explained that, following discussion with the applicant, it was recommended that the condition be amended so that the maximum duration of a stay by an occupant would be 90 days within any 12 month period.
With regards to internal noise levels, the Members were advised that delegated authority was sought for officers to agree the final wording of the condition following further discussion with the Council’s Environmental Health team.
The Planning Manager pointed out that, if the Committee granted the application, it would be necessary to notify the Department for Infrastructure (DfI), given the objection from HED in accordance with Section 89 of the Planning Act (Northern Ireland) 2011.
A Member queried the access to the hotel, which would be newly created as a “punch through” entrance, with no direct access onto the street. In response, the Planning Manager confirmed that it was an unusual and unique proposal but he advised that there were no prescriptive policies which prevented the proposal, and provided clarity in relation to the policy context which had been considered in its assessment. He explained, however, that the terrace itself was not listed although the buildings either side of the development were listed and it was in a Conservation Area. He explained that officers felt that it met all the policy tests. The Director added that the hotel did have access to the street, through a glazed box that would be designed to feel like a covered extension of the courtyard.
In response to a further Member’s question regarding HED’s objection to the application, the Planning Manager explained that the scheme had been amended from the original plans, with the height of the hotel reduced to 13 storeys, He referred the Committee to the report which outlined that, while HED welcomed the progress that had been made in relation to the revised alignment and the increased separation distance between the historic terrace and the tall element of the design, it still objected to the height of the 13 storey tower element.
In response to a further question, he provided further clarity in relation to the room sizes, which ranged from 20m2 to 50m2, and he explained that officers required controls to be imposed over occupation to ensure that the rooms were not let out for long-term residential use, as they did not meet space standards for residential accommodation. He outlined the rationale for the 90 day limit, which were widely used by other planning authorities in London boroughs, and he pointed out that the draft LDP included the same guidance.
A Member stated that they had concerns based on the Conservation officer’s assessment and HED’s objection.
Moved by Councillor Groogan
Seconded by Councillor Matt Collins,
That the Committee agrees to refuse the application as it is contrary to policies BH 11 and 12 of PPS 6, in that the height, scale and massing of the proposed building, in relation to the listed buildings and relation to the Conservation Area, are inappropriate, and delegates power to the Director of Planning and Building Control for the final wording of the refusal reasons.
On a vote, four Members voted for the proposal, eight against and two no votes, it was declared lost.
Moved by Councillor Hussey,
Seconded by Councillor McCullough,
That the Committee grants approval to the application, subject to the imposing of the conditions and delegates power to the Director of Planning and Building Control for the final wording of the conditions and to resolve any issues arising from consultation responses from NIEA and Environmental Health with regards to the updated GQRA relating to contaminated land matters and noise standards.
On a vote, eight Members voted in favour, four against and two no votes and accordingly, it was declared carried.