Havelock House was 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 building was originally purchased by Olympian Homes in 2018. They immediately stopped all rentals and the building became unoccupied and fell into disrepair.
In September 2018, the developer, (after prior meetings with council planners), approached the community with redevelopment proposals. 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 24 months, (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.
In partnership with NVTV, we also produced a campaign video:
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), was completed in August that year and the developer lodged amended plans.
In November 2022 the Forum again worked with local residents to ensure that the community concerns were heard.
In April 2023, Olympian Homes sold the building to Lotus Developments. See the February 2024 update for more info.