John Bell House granted planning for 413 student beds


Joint venture partners, Watkin Jones Group and Lacuna Developments, have achieved planning permission for the development and refurbishment of 413 private student bedrooms at John Bell House – the former Belfast Metropolitan College building at College Square East.

Newry based O’Hare & McGovern, the leading Northern Ireland construction company, has won the competitive tender for the £16 million project that will see the development of this iconic Belfast city centre building into high-level student accommodation.

The joint venture partners worked in partnership with Belfast City Council, the planners and their consultees to attain planning permission within a tight timeframe. Completion is planned for September 2016, in time for the start of the academic year.

Anthony Best of Lacuna Developments, Belfast commented: “We are delighted to be working with local contractors to bring such a landmark building back to life. This is the first major private student accommodation scheme of its kind in Northern Ireland and we’re pleased to have gained the support of Belfast City Council and the planners so quickly. The new accommodation will no doubt provide a real boost to the local economy, attracting hundreds of students into the city centre.”

The accommodation will consist of 292 bedrooms and 121 studios. Other ancillary accommodation will include a reception/ management suite as well as indoor and outdoor communal amenity areas.

O’Hare & McGovern are already involved in major developments throughout the UK and Irish Republic, including the £30m upgrade of Northern Ireland’s international soccer stadium at Windsor Park. The firm’s managing director Eamon O’Hare said he was pleased to be associated with such a prestigious scheme close to the centre of Belfast. He added: “This is a magnificent landmark building which is going to be completely revitalised to provide up-market student accommodation. It’s an exciting project which will be great for Belfast.”

Dave Roberts, Design Director at Watkin Jones Group said: “The many interesting historical features within the building and the challenges these presented will undoubtedly make John Bell House a great place to live. We look forward to developing these wonderful facilities with local construction company O’Hare & McGovern.”

In November 2014, The Belfast Metropolitan College building was renamed ‘John Bell House’ in honour of the famous Belfast scientist who once studied at the College. Considered by some scientists to rank alongside Newton and Einstein, Bell was widely believed to be a front-runner for the Nobel Prize in Physics but died in 1990 from a stroke.