BBC submits planning application to revamp Belfast HQ

BBC Northern Ireland has been based in Broadcasting House in Ormeau Avenue, Belfast, for almost 80 years.

After noting a decline in the sustainability and efficiency of the iconic building, the BBC has submitted a planning application to redevelop the site.

The new ‘central hub’ will link to original buildings and cost an impressive £77million.

Approved funding

Credit: BBC

In March 2018, funding for the building upgrade was approved by BBC’s board of directors.

The initial proposal for the development paid particular attention to value for money for the BBC as well as the specific needs of audiences in Northern Ireland.

The agreement to invest in the plans was key to making vital technological advancements for the viewers but at the same time maintaining the history of the listed building.

Peter Johnston, Director, BBC Northern Ireland, commented on last years initial announcement of the plans.

He said, “We announce this new investment by the BBC which will maintain and enhance our rich heritage and history on this site in exciting new ways well into the future.

“Doing nothing was not an option. This is a big decision for the BBC and it’s about much more than bricks and mortar,” he added.

“This major investment is a commitment to licence fee payers in Northern Ireland and will help us to become a more efficient and flexible broadcaster, better equipped to meet the needs of our diverse audiences for years to come.”

Redevelopment

Broadcasting House new design
Credit: BBC

Since 2018, designs for the new building have been drawn up and the planning application for BBC Head Quarters in Belfast have been submitted.

The plan involves adding a 2,858 sq m extension to the existing building alongside a considerable revamp of Broadcasting House, Belfast.

The main entrance, currently located just off Ormeau Avenue will be kept but the new development will “provide a new arrival experience” by changing the focus of the building towards the new Linenhall Street plaza.

Peter Johnston claimed it was exciting for BBC staff and viewers to study the design and get an idea of the final result.

He said, “The plans illustrate how this historic site will be transformed, allowing us to innovate and grow the ways in which we serve our audiences.”

The planning application, which also includes an events space as well as the central hub and entrance, will now be left with Belfast City Council’s planning committee to consider.

Original plans

Front elevation of Broadcasting House, Belfast, by architect James Miller, 1938
Credit: BBC

It will undoubtedly compare somewhat different to the plans of the original Broadcasting House, Belfast, drawn up in 1938.

Building work started on the BBC’s “new Northern Ireland headquarters” in 1939 and carried on right through World War II until it was finished in 1941.

It cost an estimated £250,000 at the time and kept that design until an administration block was added in 1975 and a further studio suite and editing facilities in 1984.

With the new plans pending, the journey of Broadcasting House, Belfast, is by no means over and is set to represent progress and development in Northern Ireland for many more years to come.

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