(Councillor Collins re-joined the meeting at this point in proceedings)
The Principal Planning officer provided the Committee with an overview of the proposals. He explained the main issues which had been considered in its assessment, including the principle of offices at that location, the principle of demolition, the economic benefits, the impact on built heritage, the scale, height, massing and design, traffic and parking, the impact on amenity, site drainage and the consideration of developer contributions.
He advised the Committee that there were two previous approvals for offices on the site, Z/2005/1236/O, which was approved in 2011, and Z/2014/0997/O, approved in 2015. Both of those applications had now expired.
The Members were advised that the application had been subject to a Pre Application Discussion.
He reported that the site was located within the Belfast City Centre, the City Centre Area of Parking Restraint, the Great Victoria Street Character Area and the Main Office Area. The application site was also located within a City Centre Gateway and Development Opportunity Site.
The Members were advised that DfI Roads, Environmental Health, NIEA, Rivers Agency, HED and NI Water had all been consulted in addition to the Urban Design Officer, the Economic Development Team and the City Regeneration and Development Team within the Council. He reported that the consultees had no objections subject to conditions.
The Principal Planning officer reported that the proposal would generate an estimated 115 direct construction jobs, and it was estimated that 2500 employees would attend the building once operational.
He outlined that the applicant would provide a developer contribution in the form of public realm improvements along the site frontage of Grosvenor Road. He added that the applicant had also volunteered to provide a Belfast Bike dock. Whilethat was welcomed by the Council, he explained that it was not required to mitigate the proposal and, as such, had not been included in the Section 76 Agreement. He added that the Transport travel cards would be provided and would be dealt with by a planning condition.
The Economic Development Team had also requested that a Section 76 clause be included to require an employability and skills plan to be submitted to the Council to detail mitigations and interventions that would be put in place to ensure the viability of the development.
It was reported that there were a number of listed buildings or structures of special architectural and historic interest in the immediate vicinity, including the Former Tobacco Works on Linfield Road, St. Peter’s Cathedral, Royal Belfast Academical Institution, Christchurch Centre of Excellence, the Former Health Centre, 89 Durham Street and a Former warehouses at 4-6 Murray Street & 13-17 Grosvenor Road.
The Historic Environment Division (HED) had advised that it was largely content with the proposals but requested that further consideration be given to the articulation of the tallest element. The Principal Planning officer explained that the Urban Design Officer and Case Officer agreed, and that several meetings were held to discuss the finer details of design articulation. An amended scheme was then submitted and all officers were in agreement that the matter was fully addressed.
The Committee’s attention was drawn to the Late Items pack, where a formal response had been received from HED stating that it was content with the amended proposals.
The Principal Planning officer explained that a response from NI Water had referenced a technical matter in reference to a pre-development enquiry by the developers. He clarified that officers were seeking delegated authority in order to deal with the matter.
The Committee granted approval to the application, subject to the imposing of the conditions set out within the case officer’s report and delegated power to the Director of Planning and Building Control for the final wording of the conditions, including the technical consultation with NI Water, and to finalise the Section 76 Agreement.