Signature Living, the Liverpool-based developer behind ambitious plans for a number of Belfast hotels, has placed two of its properties here on the market.
According to adverts currently showing on the website of estate agency, Colliers International, the group is selling the iconic Crumlin Road courthouse site and the War Memorial Building in Waring Street, Belfast – both sites that had previously been earmarked for hotels by Signature Living.
The news comes just days after it was revealed that two of the group’s existing Liverpool hotels – The Shankley and 30 James Street – are now also on the market with a combined asking price of £51m.
The sale of both Belfast hotels will cast fresh doubt on the future of Signature Living’s much-anticipated George Best-themed hotel, which is currently under development at the Scottish Mutual Building in Belfast city centre. Considerable work has already been completed there, but Signature Living’s proprietor, Lawrence Kenwright has quarrelled publicly with Belfast City Council around planning issues at the £15m hotel and the opening date has been uncertain for some time. In June, employees at the hotel were offered a choice between relocation to properties in Liverpool and Cardiff or redundancy.
According to Signature Living, the George Best hotel is now subject to an ‘operational review’.
It’s now around a year since Mr Kenwright, outlined £20m plans for the redevelopment of the Crumlin Road courthouse in Belfast. The planned 77-bed Lanyon Hotel on the site was to have been partially open this year.
The War Memorial Building in Cathedral Quarter, which already has approval for a 64-bed hotel, was acquired by the group in 2017.
Signature Living has said that it is now selling both hotels because of issues that it has with the planning process in Belfast.
In a recent statement, Signature Living said that its future focus was on the delivery of new hotel developments across the UK and that it was selling hotels to fuel that expansion:
It added: ‘In Belfast, our issues with the city council are well known. Their archaic planning structures have delayed progress with the George Best hotel development in a way that we have never experienced with a local authority before.
‘We are still firmly committed to getting the George Best hotel open as soon as possible but, given the experience we have had with Belfast City Council, we do not feel that we can progress with the others. We are, therefore, actively exploring options to sell.’
Belfast City Council has said little in public about the disagreement but it did confirm in November last year that it had undertaken a live enforcement investigation into ‘unauthorised’ work at the George Best hotel site.
Our lead picture shows Lawrence Kenwright outside the Scottish Mutual Building in Belfast where his George Best-themed hotel is currently under construction.