The Planning Manager (Development Management) presented the proposed scheme to the Members.
He explained that the application followed the granting of planning permission at appeal for a scheme of 620 units, with 54 car parking spaces at lower ground floor level (LA04/2015/0609/F). The site was currently a surface level car park.
The Members were advised of the key issues which had been considered by officers during the assessment of the proposed development, including the principle of Student Accommodation at the location; impact on built heritage; scale, massing and design; waste water infrastructure capacity; open space provision; traffic and parking; impact on amenity; air quality; noise; drainage and flooding; developer contributions and pre-application community consultation.
He outlined to the Members that the principle of student accommodation at the site had been established with an extant permission for a 620 bed scheme (LA04/2015/0609/F) which had been allowed at planning appeal.
He explained that the design of the proposed building was considered to be an improvement over the previous permission. Subtle detailing would help break up what could have been an imposing block and had added significantly to the previously approved design. The members were advised that the Historic Environment Division (HED) had welcomed the proposed design changes.
The Members were advised that an additional 104 units were proposed, with basement parking now omitted. He outlined that 15 on-site parking spaces were proposed, compared to 54 spaces in the previously approved scheme. Subject to a robust Travel Plan, the proposed approach to parking was considered acceptable given the highly accessible nature of the site and that it was consistent with other previously approved city centre PBMSA schemes which also had little or no on-site parking.
He advised that DFI Roads, DAERA, Rivers Agency, NI Water, Belfast City Airport, Shared Environmental Services, Environmental Health, Urban Design officer and Building Control had all been consulted in respect of the application and that they were all content, subject to conditions.
The Chairperson welcomed Mr. T. Stokes, agent, to the meeting. He advised the Committee Members that the application:
· site was well connected to the heart of the city centre, and exceptionally close to the new Ulster University campus;
· had come about through the detailed design development stage, and the aspiration from the new promoter, Lotus Group, to deliver a much higher quality proposal from that which was previously granted;
· would deliver additional student beds within a building which was the same in terms of overall height, scale, massing and building footprint as the current approval;
· incorporated newly proposed communal courtyard spaces and secure cycle spaces;
· design was a massive improvement in the quality and fenestration over the current approval;
· comprised a number of green travel measures, including a £75,000 contribution to Travel cards and other sustainable transport modes, which did not form part of the previous approval;
· included an agreement to improve the width and capacity of the pedestrian junction at Donegall Street and Royal Avenue intersection, again over and above any requirement under the current permission;
· included a Section S76 Planning Agreement which would secure an employability and skills plan to secure local jobs and apprenticeships through the necessary interventions with the main appointed contractor;
· it represented a significant investment and firm proposal of £55m from the private sector. Subject to approval, construction works were programmed to commence on site before year end in order to complement the completion and opening of the Belfast Ulster University Campus; and
· would generate around 500 local jobs and apprenticeships.
The Members of the Committee agreed to recommend that, in accordance with the Council decision of 4th May 2021, the Chief Executive would exercise her delegated authority to approve the application, subject to conditions with power delegated to the Director of Planning and Building Control to finalise the wording, and enter into the Section 76 Planning Agreement, subject to no new substantive planning issues being raised and to resolve any issues arising from any outstanding consultation responses.