Page last updated at 10:55 GMT, Wednesday, 12 August 2009 11:55 UK

Council question city development

artists impression of the scheme
An artist's impression of part of the new scheme

Belfast City Council has urgent questions about the progress of a major city centre development.

In November 2008 it gave a developer nine months to bring forward plans to regenerate semi-derelict areas between Donegall Street and Royal Avenue.

The £360m Royal Exchange project aims to transform a square mile area to the north east of Belfast city centre.

The council said it has yet to hear any proposals from developers William Ewart properties and Snoddon Construction.

The scheme was announced by the government in 2006 and was meant to have been completed by 2011.

Councillor William Humphrey, chair of the development committee at Belfast City Council, said he was "very keen" to hear what was going on.

"We took a decision on 3 November last year to give Ewarts nine months to bring forward an application for planning. To date that hasn't happened, in fact the council hasn't heard from Ewarts or the department about any proposals around this area," he said.

"It's very likely now that those nine months have passed we will have to reconsider this decision, revisit this whole issue at the September meeting of the development committee."

'Losses'

Tom McClelland of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors said development were likely to face delays due to the economic downturn.

"Developers have to weigh up the risks because it's their money at stake and if it goes wrong they have to carry the losses," he said.

"One way to go broke very quickly is to go ahead with a scheme, get the timing wrong with development costs that are too high for what a scheme can be sold for or whether tenants can be attracted to it."

A spokesman for the developers told the BBC they were continuing to finalise arrangements and aim to make further announcements in due course.

Likewise the Department of Social Development said it too is aiming make an announcement about the future of the scheme and associated timescales in the near future.

Mr Humphrey said action needed to be taken quickly.

"It is important that Garfield Street, Lower North Street, Donegall Street, and North Street itself are put back in the condition they were some time ago. They just look pitiful at the minute."



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