Convent School Saved: Campaign Success
Another victory for the residents-led campaign!
The Market community won a historic victory at Belfast City Council’s Planning Committee on the evening of Tuesday 18th January to save the Sussex Place Convent School. Despite receiving hundreds of objections, planners had recommended approving the scheme, which sought to convert it into office space for over 200 people and cram 8 apartments into its historic courtyard. Residents only became aware of the impending planning committee after stumbling across Council planners on a site visit to Joy Street the preceding Thursday. Joy Street resident Christine Farmer, who would have been directly impacted by the proposal, noted that “our community is being squeezed slowly but surely, and we are losing our heritage. I’m very, very sad that developers think that they can come in and push us out.”
Her neighbour, Market snooker legend Joe Swail added “things are being taken out of our hands and we’re being squeezed out of the Market. From a personal perspective, my brother has a number of physical and mental health problems, and this is going to really set him back… instead of having all these private developers coming in and squeezing us out, it would be nice to have something for the community.”
Market residents Christine Farmer and Fionntán Hargey spoke in objection to the proposal at Planning Committee and were joined on the night by expert planner David Worthington and Prof. Brendan Murtagh, a professor of planning at QUB. Councillors John Gormley and Gary McKeown also spoke in support of the community on the night. Despite the recommendation for approval, councillors on the Planning Committee saw the merit of the community’s case and unanimously rejected the application. Over the past year, the Market Development Association has been liaising with residents neighbouring the Convent School to develop plans for an exciting new community alternative. We will be unveiling these plans and engaging residents in a wider consultation in the coming months.