Wednesday, 13 January 2016


Standard arguments regarding the Northside regeneration:

To avoid having to go round and round in circles we’ll put up a ‘go to’ page here to cover the most commonly raised points and arguments

1/ “The area is a grip and should be bulldozed!”

Well quite. The area is indeed in a state of disrepair and looks not so hot.

But this doesn’t mean that bulldozing is the only solution.

There are numerous examples of refurbishing run down areas (Manhatten anybody?) with beneficial social and economic  consequences.

The Merchant City, Glasgow

Once upon a time a neglected area full of derelict buildings and dodgy characters, now a des-res and a go-to area for events and entertainment

Glasgow City Council made the developers retain the facades of the old warehouses and buildings and build from the inside out. The GPO is the most outstanding example of this.

GPO - Before
GPO - After


The Cathedral Quarter, Belfast

Now perhaps a bit too popular for some but from an architectural preservation point of view it shows what could be done with a bit of guidance.

Fitzroy, Melbourne

Once a dodgy area (that partly suffered from wholesale demolition too) it has now reinvented itself as a des-res and an all-round interesting wee place.


That’s just off the top of our heads.

There are many examples of reviving an area without having to bulldoze everything (NOTE: There were once plans afoot to demolish large swathes of Edinburgh, Amsterdam and Paris, but didn’t go ahead, would you go to Edinburgh if Prince’s St and the New Town were motorways and turn-offs?).

So, you don’t NEED to demolish an area to make it look nice.

Here’s a picture of Kent St now and then a picture of Melbourne’s Hardware lane, the two are actually architecturally similar (as I noticed walking through Kent St recently):


So, this is what CAN be done.

A spot of refurbishment/retention, some pedestrianisation and sensitive planning & building and Belfast could have some more appealing pedestrian thoroughfares (I mean the streets in question will connect student accommodation to the university area AND the city centre).

2/We need student accommodation

We do indeed. The two aims are not mutually exclusive. Buildings can be converted with a bit of elbow grease; modern on the inside, vintage on the outside.

Above: A former FACTORY converted into student accommodation

It CAN be done.
3/ "Architecture should be innovative and forward thinking, not stuck in the past".

Few would disagree with that (apart from board-members and accountants in large property development firms).
As it happens the area between and around the university and Corporation Street is pock-marked with brownfield sites and car parks.

Surely it would benefit from cutting edge architecture? There's plans afoot to reshape the interchanges around there, why not throw some decent buildings into the deal?

Here's a list of some proposed developments for the city, there are a few (and not too shabby) proposals but the area is not exactly swamped with applications considering the sheer volume of wasteland, car parks and ugly buildings:

Why not refurbish Smithfield & Union (and with green spaces and sympathetic architecture) and encourage high rise apartment buildings in this semi-abandoned area?

It’s near the university for starters and a university centric design for the buildings could give the area a renewed purpose.

If the above scenario were to come to pass then we’d have a restored industrial Victorian area AND a revived brown site area.

Win-win surely? Go on, give it a bit of love.

Other ideas:

Here’s how they utilised old ground in the Netherlands to solve student accommodation shortages.

And another company in the Netherlands makes its bread and butter by converting buildings into student accommodation:

4/ “Ach, those buidings are protected, they wouldn’t be allowed to knock them down”

I hear this surprisingly frequently.

NO they’re not protected and they CAN (and are) knock(ing) them down.


The Art Deco Bank of Ireland on the top of Royal Avenue might still be protected but the rest of North street in general isn’t and they DO plan to knock a lot of it down.


Looky here:

Running below the blue block is North St, along side it is Union St and above it is Kent St. The top right (ish) corner is the current site of the Sunflower .


The entire block is to be demolished.

No integration of existing buildings. No fa├žade retention. Simple hammer & wrecking ball job.

End of.

THAT is the template for Belfast’s regeneration.
The Sunflower - Part of the proposed North St, Union St, Kent St Demolition Block


4/ “We can’t dwell in the past, let us have cutting edge architecture and move forward”

Fair enough.

But why can’t we have cutting edge architecture (assuming that that’s an option anyway) in the vacant sites AND refurbish the pre-war buildings? Get the best of both worlds?


5/ “It’s more expensive”

Yes. Yes it is. In general it’s much more profitable for a developer to knock a building down rather than refurbish it.

Rather coldly though I have to say that this is a problem for a developer, not you or I.

If a developer is only going to make e.g. £1m rather than £3m well then so what?

Why should we pay for their profits with our heritage?

If the area could be designated as a conservation area with planning limitations then a small derelict warehouse would be sold as a ‘small derelict’ warehouse, not as a ‘potential  for tower block of flats’.

If the big developers are not interested in small scale redevelopment projects then the resulting depreciation in price would leave the door open for smaller developers who would have to toe the architectural line.

What to do?


Simply email the planning department, object to the proposals, quote this reference number and request a reply:  LA04/2015/0577/O

The email address for the planning office is:


If you want to go a step further then lodge an objection on the planning portal (takes about 5 mins):


Then contact the UAHS this is their bread and butter and they’ll happily hand out advice on such matters and advise you on how to work WITH the system.

Well,we’ll be needing people to write to various big wigs, tweet things,forward stuff and generally keep the momentum going. If you’re interested in any of these acts then email us at

That’s all for now folks


  1. I totally agree with everything you have said above. Let's hope the planners come to their senses before it's too late.

    1. Thankyou PB13

      All we can tell you is that the best thing you can do is write and/or email the planning dept and tell them.

      They are an administrative branch and in NI we've developed a 'what's the point?' culture.
      Simply tell them that you object and why and quote the reference number. That's worth more than any number of tweets, blogs or petitions.

      People in the planning office love Belfast too, but they have so many ideas pinged at them that it must become difficult to discern what is actually best for the city.

      Anyway, thankyou for your comment and please take a moment to send an email objection or (preferably) log-on and object at the official planning portal: