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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 June 2006, 07:55 GMT 08:55 UK
Freeze set for multiple-occupancy
Holyland area of south Belfast
The proposals would affect the Holyland area of Belfast
The development of property in Belfast for multiple occupation is to be restricted.

The Planning Service said in future no street in the city would be allowed to have more than 30% of its houses converted for such purposes.

For the Holyland area of the city, it means an effective freeze on converting any more houses into student dwellings.

Planners hope the move will see the regeneration of areas along some of Belfast's arterial routes.

Al Adair from the Planning Service, who had a key role in drawing up the policies, said there was an increasing need for Houses of Multiple-Occupancy (HMOs).

"The purpose is to ensure that the problems that exist in the Holyland don't extend elsewhere in Belfast," he told BBC News on Wednesday.

"It is also to accommodate the need for houses in multiple occupation, because there is clearly a growing need.

"We have identified about 21 areas where we are setting the 30% cap."

Mr Adair said there was a growing need for HMOs among Northern Ireland's migrant worker community.

'Long overdue'

However, Declan Boyle from the Landlords' Association said it would be difficult to get students to consider living in other areas.

"All they want to have is their universities close, within the university corridor," he said.

"They want to walk to wherever they are going, they haven't got cars and they don't want to be paying for transport links."

David Farrell, from the Belfast Holyland Regeneration Association, said the plan was long overdue.

I am mindful that for some areas this may have come too late
Alex Maskey
Sinn Fein

He said his area needed a greater mix of residents and currently had too many students.

"We are quite concerned that the enforcement doesn't appear to be there in the document - and that is a major issue," said Mr Farrell.

Sinn Fein South Belfast assembly member Alex Maskey welcomed the move but said more action was needed.

He called for "more to be done to ensure that planning and other policies do not conspire to undermine the social cohesion of communities in south Belfast".

"I am mindful that for some areas this may have come too late.

"However, I believe that there is potential in this document, if it is implemented as part of a coherent strategy, to reverse some of the detrimental effects that the over-proliferation of HMO's have had on many communities."

Mr Maskey was speaking after the launch of the Department of the Environment's draft consultation document on HMOs on Tuesday.


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