Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan 2015
Strategic Plan Framework: Offices (Page 1 of 2)
Regional Policy Context
The Regional Development Strategy (RDS) provides a number of Strategic Planning Guidelines and measures for office development within Northern Ireland which are as follows:
- foster development which contributes to better community relations, recognises cultural diversity, and reduces socio-economic differentialswithin Northern Ireland (SPG-SRC 3) by:
- revitalising the role of town centres and other common locations well served by public transport as focal points for shopping, services, employment, cultural and leisure activities for the whole community (SRC 3.2); and
- promoting the development of major employment/enterprise areas in locations which are accessible to all sections of the community (SRC 3.2).
- exploit the economic development potential of the key transport corridors (ECON 2) by:
- promoting and exploiting the potential for economic development at selected locations on the strategic network of key transport corridors and links (ECON 2.1); and
- facilitating the clustering of engineering and high technology type businesses in a number of locations including the centre of corridor towns, at established major business nodes within towns, or in ‘industrial office park’ developments at the edge of towns, normally as part of mixed use schemes, with preferred locations at road or rail nodes, and transport interchanges (ECON 2.1).
The RDS also sets out a spatial framework for future growth of the BMA that includes strategic guidance on the location of office development:
- create a thriving Metropolitan Area centred on a revitalised city of Belfast (SPG-BMA 1) by:
- enhancing the role of the city of Belfast (BMA 1.1); and
- maintaining the role of Belfast City Centre as the primary
- office location in the region (BMA 1.1).
- promote a balanced spread of economic development opportunities across the region focused on the BMA and the urban hubs/clusters as the main centres for employment and services (SPG-ECON 1) by:
- supporting urban renaissance (ECON 1.3); and
- promoting town centres as the major locations and first choice for expanding service employment by focusing major office developments in central areas where they are accessible to all sections of the community (ECON 1.3).
The Office Study
In order to assist the Department in preparing the Plan, Colliers CRE were appointed to review existing office stock within the Plan Area, to assess the current supply and demand for office space, and to appraise existing planning policy for the location of offices. The conclusions and recommendations of the Office Study are as follows:
- growth in office floorspace is anticipated with forecast requirements of an additional 409,500 square metres for the period 1998-2015;
- given the changes in functions now taking place in office buildings, locational requirements will vary, and city and town centres cannot accommodate the needs of all office users;
- to give choice, a portfolio of office sites and premises therefore needs to be available within the BMA;
- office locations need to be sustainable and accessible by a choice of transport, particularly public transport;
- Belfast City Centre must remain the primary office location in Northern Ireland;
- office development should be encouraged in Lisburn City Centre and the town centres;
- limited office development should be permitted in Business Parks within Major Employment Locations (MELs) in order to offer choice and facilitate inward investment;
- such business park office development should be:
- masterplan led;
- of high quality;
- limited to specific use classification; and
- limited in scale in order to protect the role of Belfast City Centre.
- office development should be accepted at Titanic Quarter in order to act as a catalyst for redevelopment, but should be limited in scale in order to avoid detriment to Belfast City Centre;
- offices of up to 400 sq m gross floorspace should be permitted at designated nodal locations along Arterial Routes;
- offices of up to 200 sq m gross floorspace should be permitted elsewhere along Arterial Routes;
- an office policy should be introduced in order to designate areas where office use by educational establishments for example Queens University would be permitted in recognition of the importance of such facilities to the regional economy; and
- provision of office space must be monitored to maintain the balance between the role of Belfast City Centre and the business parks in MELs.
Recommendations put forward by the consultants have assisted the Department in formulating appropriate office policies. Colliers CRE Retail Study is published as the Offices Technical Supplement to the Plan.
|BMA Office Strategy|
The BMA Office Strategy comprises the following elements:
Between 1991 and 1998 growth in the service sectors9 which includes office employment resulted in the creation of 87,000 jobs in Northern Ireland. Expansion of the service sector led to an increase in office development within the BMA and in Belfast City Centre in particular. The major office study carried out in 1987 for the Belfast Urban Area Plan 2001 estimated that there was 400,000 sq m of office space within Belfast City Centre. The City Centre office stock was estimated at 503,000 sq m in 2002, an increase of over 20% in the 16-year period.
Economic scenarios undertaken by the Department of Employment and Learning (DEL) conclude that service sector employment will continue to grow, providing further demand for new office development.
The BMA Office Strategy is to promote a portfolio of sites and locations for office development throughout the BMA, so as to give choice and seek to ensure that the requirements of a range of office occupiers can be met. Belfast City Centre will continue to be promoted as the primary location for major office development within BMA and Northern Ireland. Outside Belfast City Centre, office development will, in general, be directed to designated commercial areas, in order to assist regeneration of established foci of community life and to provide services and opportunities for job creation in local areas. Lisburn City Centre and town centres will provide foci for office development, and limited dispersal of offices will be permitted on Belfast’s Arterial Routes and to local centres in suburban locations.
The Plan Proposals also provide flexibility to respond to new and emerging opportunities for office development. For some activities which take place in office-style buildings a city or town centre location is often not appropriate. The Plan Proposals seek to accommodate such developments by facilitating limited dispersal of major office development to Major Employment Locations, in the form of business parks. The scale and nature of office development in MELs is controlled by setting a ceiling to permitted floorspace and by limiting the range of acceptable office uses in order to protect the primacy of Belfast City Centre.
The portfolio approach seeks to provide for the diverse requirements of a range of office users in order to ensure that opportunities for development for Belfast and Northern Ireland as a whole are not lost. The locations shown for office development are sustainable and accessible by a choice of transport particularly public transport.
1 Includes Market and Non-Market Services