Friday, 8 January 2016

Down the Rabbit Hole Ever So Slightly

In the interests of nipping-in-the-bud future alarmist headlines in the style of "MAN ON INTERNET WANTS TO MAKE 7000 STUDENTS HOMELESS" it is perhaps worth our while to have a peek at a recent lucrative trend in the building industry; student accommodation.
 (FYI, we don't want to make the students homeless, we just want any development plan that could involve the building of their apartment blocks to incorporate existing pre-war architecture and in general be of an aesthetic that is sympathetic to the area.)
"Profit up five-fold at student halls developer Unite "
 It is on this wave of property developing trends that many of Belfast's buildings will find themselves swept away.
Yes, students need accommodation, that's not what this particular blog is against, (though many of us are sympathetic to those who are going to lose potential land for social housing) rather we are against the wholesale destruction that will accompany this development scheme.
Furthermore, if companies of considerable size are involved then this is a reflection of considerable profits.
"The Russian oligarch Mikhail Fridman, a big Canadian pension fund and other investors from around the world have been ploughing billions of pounds into the student accommodation sector in recent months. University digs are now increasingly viewed as an attractive asset class that can provide robust returns." -
When considerable profits are involved then what is the worth of 'a few old buildings'?
If you have shareholders to answer to then how do you explain to them that the reason a projected profit of e.g. 5 000 000 GBP (a purely random figure BTW)is 'only' 3 500 000 GBP on account of deciding to retain the façade of an old warehouse?
Answer: You don't.
The warehouse gets it. As does the cute little kitty if it happens to be in the building at the time. Stupid little kitty!
Kitty: Will get it.
NOTHING can be allowed to interfere with the bottom line. Ergo petitions, songs and pleas will not cut any ice with these organisations.
They will do what they are permitted to do in the locality and at the moment they're being permitted to knock down buildings in the hope that they can build lucrative student accommodation.
From our point of view let them build student accommodation. But keep the old buildings (and the kitty). (Or at least keep their facades?).
It can be done. It has been done. Numerous times all over the world.
But the council and other big-wigs have to force them to.
Belfast City Council will not force them to (or rather bring about the required guarantees for the buildings in danger)unless we (the public) let them know how we feel.
So, even if you don't care about the kitty you might care about big companies descending on Belfast to make a LOT of quick dollars at the expense of our architectural heritage in which case you HAVE to let the council know:
Email the planning department and let them know: quoting the reference LA04/2015/0577/O
and tell them what you want e.g. that the old buildings be incorporated into whatever grand plans they may have or whatever YOU think fit.
Email/write your local councillors and let them know:
Go straight to the planning application and object:
It is important because they WILL destroy these buildings because they ARE destroying them now and over the past few months.
Stephen Street - Thursday 7th, Jan
The art deco Metropole
The art deco Orpheus (and ball room)

As usual, here's a quick reference footer for what to do if one wishes to object to the proposals for the area:

1/ Email the planning department quoting the ref. number LA04/2015/0577/O , explain your objections and request a reply.

2/ Sign onto the planning portal, log in and place an objection. It takes a few minutes, but goes straight to the source.

Simply register and then add a comment (tick the ‘object’ button too).

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