Havelock House is one of the numerous commercial buildings with a significant local industrial history. Built in 1871 as a Linen factory it housed soldiers during WWII and recently the home of Ulster Television, (UTV), 1958 – 2018. UTV was integral to the Northern Ireland Television industry regionally and nationally, setting the framework for independent regional television studios.
The current owner, Olympian Homes, has stopped all rentals and the building is now unoccupied and falling into disrepair.
In September 2018, the developer, (after prior meetings with council planners), approached the community with redevelopment proposals for Havelock House. These were vague, not fully developed, and the Developer advised there would be further engagement. New plans appeared in the NI Planning Portal December 2019 and January 2020 and residents received a notification letter in June 2020.
The first time that residents saw hard copies of the proposals was August 2020. The proposals were substantially different to the originals. They documented 271 Apartments, built in 3, 5, and 8 storey blocks with 2 roof terraces and shared laundry rooms on each floor. Proposals suggested hostel style apartments or student accommodation with only 40 car spaces proposed for the development. The demolition and construction phase would be 24months, (the construction of an 8-storey building, would overshadow five historically listed buildings in the immediate/adjacent vicinity). The buildings layout located the generator rooms along the rear of the existing residential boundaries. Concerns were raised that a development of this scale and complexity did not have an Environmental Assessment (EA), which assesses the health impact on residents directly affected. Meetings with local politicians from across the political spectrum gained broad support.
DPCF wanted to ensure that the developer had an appreciation of the wider impact the build, and building, would have on the physical and mental well-being of local residents, as well as the loss of local amenities and a building of historical interest. This campaign ensured that there was proper community consultation so elected representatives, council officers and the developer heard the voices of local people. Belfast City Council (BCC) unanimously refused Planning Approval in November 2020. The developer appealed and in November 2021, the Appeals Commissioner upheld the original Council decision.
In May 2022 Olympian Homes commenced a second application for the development of the site. The planning consultation process, (PAD), is to be completed by August this year when the developer will be lodging amended plans. The new plans are the old proposals that have been amended to address the planning reasons for refusal and not address residents’ concerns. The Forum is again working with local residents to ensure that the community concerns are heard.