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Council grants approval for Bank Buildings restoration

The historic Bank Buildings in Belfast city centre The historic Bank Buildings in Belfast city centre
By Conor McParland

APPROVAL has been given for a historic restoration of the Bank Buildings by Belfast City Council’s planning committee.

The application seeks to restore the grade B1-listed landmark to its totality after it was destroyed in the devastating Primark blaze in August last year.

Proposed conservation-led works include the reinstatement of the upper floor structures on the Bank Street, Royal Avenue and Castle Street facades and the 1970s wall on Bank Street. There are also plans to add a cafe.

The plans were given the green light by Council on Tuesday night.

SDLP Botanic Councillor Gary McKeown said: “It is fantastic that plans have been approved for the restoration of Bank Buildings and when, complete, the building will once again take its place as a major landmark in our city centre.

“The Primark fire was devastating not only for the built heritage of the historic Bank Buildings, but also for the wider area, with a significant section of the city centre closed off and businesses badly affected. Now that plans have been approved to restore Bank Buildings to its former glory, this should act as a catalyst to improve the neighbourhood generally, driving forward a vision of what our city centre should be.

“The plans will see the restoration of the building in its totality, with the inclusion of a new fourth floor café with views over the city. Significant effort has gone into stabilising the building and cataloguing stonework that had to be removed. The restoration work is due to replicate the design and finish of the original building, so it will once again feature as an architectural treasure in the heart of Belfast.

“I understand the work will be painstaking and will take two to three years to complete.

“With the green light now given for the restoration of Bank Buildings, as a city we must look to how it can take its place in an improved city centre. One silver lining from the devastation of the fire was the discovery of just how vibrant Donegall Place and Castle Place could be without vehicles.

“We need a vision for how this area can be transformed into one where pedestrians and cyclists come first, and where there is a safe space for events such as markets and street entertainment to attract a wide range of people into town to enjoy everything it has to offer. This would breathe new life into the area, and make it one where people want to spend time rather than just travel through.”

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