BBC poll: Most Belfast residents don’t want homes in Rathlin House demolished


A straw poll of 462 respondents, taken last week at the BBC’s website, found that 75% do not want our streetscape changed by concrete apartments.

In spite of protests from some residents, the developer plans to knock down two apartment blocks in Rathlin House to build a 174-unit condo complex. The vote was conducted via a Facebook poll and not by posing a specific question. The more than 600 respondents are from across Northern Ireland. They included mostly residents living in the residential area and some including people who would rather live in the multi-million-pound units – a large number of whom were in or near the area that the blocks will be demolished.

The developers, who call the units “affordable housing”, say it will be a key part of their bid to boost economic growth.

But residents are demanding a rethink after the BBC’s Late Ulster programme reported on the lack of school places and the high cost of living and child care in the area.

Rathlin House is in the heart of Belfast’s historic Strand district. Its walls were used by the Nazi German army at the end of World War II. More recently it was the city’s hospitality headquarters.

The city council is now seeking public views about the plans before a final decision is made.

It says if the developer’s plan gets the green light it will create between 550 and 550 jobs.

There are plans to build a parking lot in front of the proposed development, for bus, taxi and parcel services. A spokesperson for the development company said this would enable local residents to get to their workplace or to the shops within 10 minutes.

Parents living in Rathlin House also said that it is not safe to let their children play in the neighbouring area because of the lack of parks, and not enough parents are paying attention to their children in the area.

But a group of local students say there is a whole generation of young people who simply do not want to live in Rathlin House because of what they have seen as inhumane treatment of this part of the city.

A petition is circulating online to build a new group of sheltered houses around the area.

Iain Stewart, the director of the project, said he expects the development to create around 1,500 construction jobs and 50 permanent jobs.

He said the Irish Medical Organisation has given its blessing to the plan, which is backed by many teachers, social workers and local councillors.

If the development gets the green light, residents who currently live in the area will have the chance to buy the units in the complex, with the cheaper units going to newly qualified nurses and doctors.

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