Royal Exchange

Last Update: 22 Oct 2017 | Planning Status Updated

A proposed £400m mixed use redevelopment (formerly known as Royal Exchange) proposed by Castlebrooke Investments within the north-east quarter of Belfast City Centre. The proposed scheme comprises retail, leisure, residential, community and office space across 12 acres bound by Royal Avenue, Donegall St, North St, Lower Garfield St and High St. The official scheme website provides further information –


Development History

A joint venture referred to as the ‘Gateway Project’ was proposed by Ewart Properties and John Laing/MEPC in 1999. The scheme proposed combining the land owned by Ewart’s in the North East Quarter of Belfast City Centre with John Laing/MEPC’s proposed extension of CastleCourt into Smithfield. The joint project was dropped when the Department for Social Development (DSD) announced Victoria Square as its preferred comprehensive regeneration project.

Following development of Victoria Square the DSD announced support for a retail-led regeneration project within the North East Quarter of Belfast City Centre in March 2006. The DSD entered into “Heads of Terms” with Leaside Investments in February 2008 and in December 2009 a Development Agreement was signed to develop the North East Quarter as a mixed-use project called Royal Exchange. A spokesperson for Leaside Investments commented on the agreement; “the company has been acquiring properties in the area for almost 20 years and to date has invested £40m to get to this stage”.

Leaside Investments (a consortium consisting of Ewart Properties, Snoddens Construction & ING Real Estate) submitted the Royal Exchange planning application to DoE Planning in October 2010 (Z/2010/1532/F). The application proposed a department store, retail units, café/ restaurant units, hotel (25 rooms), office accommodation, residential units (205no. apartments), arts centre, retail car park (830no. spaces), residential car park (236no. spaces) and public spaces. The planning application was approved in September 2012.

RBS Capital Resolution (Ulster Bank) announced in May 2015 that a portfolio of property loans, including loans associated with Royal Exchange, had been purchased by an entity affiliated with Cerberus Capital Management.

The Royal Exchange Development Agreement between DSD and Leaside Investments Ltd was terminated in November 2015.

Castlebrooke Investments acquired the land associated with Royal Exchange in an off-market deal with Cerberus in January 2016.

A company associated with Castlebrooke Investments submitted a planning application (LA04/2016/2327/F) proposing to vary conditions of the original Royal Exchange planning permission granted under Z/2010/1532/F to enable potential phased delivery of the scheme. The Department for Infrastructure issued a Notice of Opinion in January 2017 to approve the application to vary conditions.

Castlebrooke Investments commenced consultation in February 2017 on a revised development proposal across 12 acres of the North East Quarter on land bound by Royal Avenue, Donegall Street, North Street, Lower Garfield Street and High Street. The proposed mixed use scheme comprises retail, leisure, residential, community and office space. The construction cost of the proposed scheme is estimated at £250m and the total investment is reported as £400m.

Public consultation events took place at The Mac Belfast during February and July 2017. Further information at

PG Ltd and Savills submitted a planning application (LA04/2017/2126/F) in September 2017 proposing redevelopment of the area known as Phase 1b (lands bound by Royal Avenue, Rosemary Street, North Street and Lower Garfield Street). The proposal comprises office (9,000m2), retail (2,700m2), cafe/restaurant (1,600m2), residential (6 units) and community use (1,000m2) and associated public realm and landscaping.

PG Ltd and Savills submitted an outline planning application (LA04/2017/2341/O) in October 2017 proposing:

“Demolition, redevelopment and part change of use to create a mixed use development comprising retail, offices, café/restaurant uses, residential apartments, including private rented sector units, hotel use, community uses, car parking, associated access, servicing and circulation arrangements, an energy centre, the creation of new streets, the reconfiguration of Writers Square, public realm works, landscaping and associated site and road works. The application also proposes works to alter listed buildings, restoration of retained listed buildings and facades, and partial demolition of North Street Arcade, retaining its facades. Details of proposed access arrangements are also provided”