Planning officers have approved John McAslan + Partners’ integrated bus and rail station for Belfast
Northern Ireland’s Department for Infrastructure granted planning permission for the practice’s transport hub on the site of the city’s existing Europa Bus centre and Great Victoria Street Railway Station.
The scheme, which will include a range of public realm improvements, is designed to meet growing demand for public transport in the city and enhance the experience of using it.
Northern Ireland’s integrated bus and rail public transport company Translink launched a contest to design the hub back in 2013. McAslan won the competition and, following a four-year consultation process, submitted a planning application in 2017.
Its designs include a station concourse with 26 bus stands and eight railway platforms, each up to 230m long. Almost 300m of track will be added and other stretches of rail realigned.
Bus parking, maintenance and cleaning facilities will be built along with temporary structures to maintain transport operations during construction.
Infrastructure works will include the controversial demolition of Belfast’s 1936 Boyne Bridge. A petition to save the structure gathered well over 1,000 signatures.
Planning officers said the hub’s design was inspired by the area’s industrial heritage, with the roof designed to resemble folden linen.
Their report added that the Boyne Bridge was not listed and that designers had concluded it was not possible to retain it on the site due to engineering constraints.
‘There is evidently a strong sense of attachment to the bridge among the local community,’ said the report. ‘However, within the surrounding area, the bridge is not a prominent feature within the townscape.’
Planners concluded that the heritage value of the bridge was outweighed by the public benefits of the proposed hub, which included a ‘significant improvement to the image of the city’.
John McAslan + Partners chairman John McAslan said: ‘This major development of an integrated bus and rail transport facility will form a key gateway into Belfast’s city centre.
‘Our proposal improves permeability across the site, integrates the new station with the existing city grain and creates new civic spaces – a high-quality urban realm befitting this progressive and ambitious city.’
Translink chief executive Chris Conway said the scheme, which will take around five years to complete, was ‘a further milestone in the transformation of public transport in Northern Ireland’.
He added: ‘It is hugely important as the main transport gateway, with rail, coach and bus connections to all parts of Northern Ireland and beyond.’
Pre-planning consultation is underway on mixed-use development proposals to form a new neighbourhood around the Belfast Transport Hub called Weavers Cross.