CastleCourt cinema and leisure hub gets green light

CastleCourt cinema and leisure hub gets green light

An £11 million plan to create a new cinema and leisure hub in the former Debenhams store at Belfast’s CastleCourt is set to go ahead.

Omniplex plans to open a nine-screen luxury cinema, taking up much of the 80,000 sq ft space vacated by Debenhams in May 2021.

It is envisaged a mix of retail, hospitality and leisure use will fill the remainder.

NI Water had initially objected citing insufficient wastewater treatment capacity for the development, stating: “The public system cannot presently serve this development proposal without significant risk of environmental harm.”

Wastewater treatment works in the area are due to be upgraded by July 2023. But that remains dependent on prioritisation and funding.

However, talks between NI Water and CastleCourt’s owners Wirefox provided reassurances over reduced footfall in the area due to the impact of Covid-19.

Wirefox provided evidence projecting footfall in 2023 will be 8 million, down from 10.5 million in 2019 and therefore resulting in reduced water demand.

Based on the objection being formally withdrawn, city planning officials recommended approving the development and Belfast City Council gave it the green light on Wednesday, March 2.

Council officials noted that Wirefox “is under an extremely tight timeframe” for the prospective tenants to be able to fit out the units for opening by late October/mid-November 2022.

Omniplex Director, Paul John Anderson said: “Working alongside Wirefox, we are delighted to have secured the necessary planning permission to progress with this scheme and can finally unveil more details of our luxury cinema brand ‘The Avenue’. Being the first of its kind in Northern Ireland, we hope that The Avenue will draw cinemagoers into the city centre for quality service in an intimate and luxurious cinema setting.”

The construction and fit-out contract has been awarded to leading company GRAHAM.

Mark Gibson, MD of GRAHAM Interior Fit-Out, said: “Having completed several similar projects across the UK and Ireland, it’s exciting to see the innovative transformational plans envisaged for CastleCourt.

“The GRAHAM Interior Fit-Out team are proud to bring together localised delivery partners to revitalise the vacated Debenhams unit into a vibrant retail & leisure space.

“At its peak, the delivery site will have 50+ operatives across multiple trades, which will create much welcomed new job and apprenticeship opportunities, vital for the local construction industry.

“We look forward to playing our part in the regeneration of one of the city’s most popular retail & leisure destinations.”