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Court owner rethinks hotel plans

17 August 09 15:47 GMT

The owner of a former Belfast courthouse damaged in weekend arson attacks has said he is going to have to rethink his development plans.

Barry Gilligan planned to turn it into a hotel or office complex but said he was now looking for other ideas as the level of grant aid was not sufficient.

He said he wanted to find an innovative use for the Crumlin Road courthouse, which closed in 1998.

Mr Gilligan said he would "work with anyone" to secure its future.

"Both of those schemes have made it clear from the outset that they require significant grant aid - the level of grant aid, particularly for the hotel is not forthcoming," he said.

"So in one sense it is back to the drawing board and it is back to finding some form of innovative use for this building which requires a lesser amount of grant aid.

"I'll look at anything I'll work with anyone - I want to secure this building and I want to give this building a future."

Firefighters tackling fires at the courthouse were attacked by stone throwing youths.

Crews were damping down a small fire at the rear of the building on Sunday night when they came under attack.

It was the third fire at the listed building over the weekend.

Ten fire appliances were used to put out a major fire at the building in March of this year.

The courthouse was the venue for hundreds of paramilitary trials during the troubles.

It was purchased by Mr Gilligan, the current Policing Board chairman, who announced plans to transform it into a luxury hotel.

The original architect of the Grade B listed building was Sir Charles Lanyon, who was also involved in the construction of some of Belfast's landmark buildings including City Hall, Custom House, Belfast Castle and Queen's University.

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