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Belfast looks to open door to more skyscrapers

Northern Ireland’s capital city could become a haven for skyscrapers if a new policy gets approval

The policy, currently in development by the Department of Environment, will look at preventing ‘ad hoc’ decisions on tall buildings by planning officers.

Exact details are yet to be announced but Edwin Poots, environment minister, told the Belfast Telegraph: ‘We are comfortable with the principle of tall buildings where they are appropriate’. He added that Belfast was ‘behind the times’ with regards to skyscrapers.

‘If we are to continue to grow our economy we need to grow our population, and tall buildings can accommodate people residentially and maximise our land use,’ said Poots.

The decision comes one year after the Aurora by HKR architects (pictured above), a proposed 37-storey residential tower in Belfast, was refused planning permission amid outcry by the developers.

Michael Galbraith, director in Belfast of HKR architects, said: ‘We’re not aware exactly sure what [the policy in development] will say but probably tall buildings will be allowed in clusters, in designated areas and at gateway sites’.

Peter Vaughan of Broadway Malyan – architect behind Northern Ireland’s tallest building, the 85m-tall Obel tower in Belfast, which is currently under construction, said: ‘[This is a] long overdue piece of policy that puts a rational yardstick on the placing of tall buildings’.

Vaughan believes, that despite the economic climate, there is still a will to build tall buildings in Belfast.

‘There are definitely other sites in Belfast where you could genuinely and rationally place a tall building in Belfast,’ said Vaughan. He added: ‘But not on a smash-and-grab basis’.

Readers' comments (2)

  • The photo above doesn't show that many of the properties in this street are derelict, with undeveloped gap sites. Concentrating so much development on one random site is not the way to fix this problem. A simple move like making the street two-way to traffic would be a good start towards restoring vitality.

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  • At their launch last year, the Forum for an Alternative Belfast (FAB) highlighted the fact that the amount of vacant, derelict or unused land in Belfast city centre is equal to the area currently built on; in their words, room for an entire second Belfast in the city centre. There is a much greater need for rigorous qualitative architectural and urban analysis of projects in the planning system in NI: we don't need more buildings or taller buildings, we need better buildings.

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