Restoration of The Bank Buildings


Click the sections below to view Frequently Asked Questions.

Who is bringing this development forward?
Primark Stores Limited.

What is the expertise within the project team?
Planning, Engineering, Conservation Architect, Architect, Stone and Masonry, Temporary Works, Structural Engineers, Ground Condition Specialists, Archaeology, M&E, Building Contractors, Vehicular Movement, Fire Consultant, Health and Safety.

Who is paying for the redevelopment?
Primark Stores Limited.

Who owns the site?
Primark Stores Limited.

What is the history of the building and the site
The Bank Buildings was designed by William H. Lynn for Robertson, Ledlie, Ferguson & Co. Ltd., textile merchants. The Castle Street section was built 1885 – 1891 and the main Castle Place section was built by James Henry & Sons between 1899 – 1900. The feature clock on the Castle Place elevation was installed in 1900 by Belfast-based clockmaker Sharman D. Neill. The building was altered by Hobart & Heron architects during 1938 and between 1951 – 1952 Hobart & Heron oversaw the construction of a six storey building known as Commonwealth House at 29-43 Castle Street; adjacent the Bank Buildings (later demolished 2016/17).
Where is the site and how large is it?
0.4 hectares.

Castle Place, Belfast, BT1 6BT.

What do the proposals include?

Full external conservation led restoration and redevelopment of Bank Buildings. This will include the reinstatement of any original elements that have been removed and are in a suitable condition to reuse.

Fire damaged elements will be replaced with like for like materials and features / detailing.

Internal refit for a modern Primark store.

What differences are their between the old building and these proposals?

The original dormers will be restored, although there may be some realignment to the roofline to accommodate screening of the plant.

A new support structure within the footprint of the remaining stonework facades, which will tie together the façade to the new interior build.

The internal floor plates will remain stay largely the same. The internal layout may be revised to include the latest retail features.

What will the redevelopment of this building mean for the future of the city centre, considering the losses made following the fire?
We are custodians of an important listed building, and undertaking its safe restoration if our priority. We look forward to securing planning permission and re-opening the Bank Buildings and our extended Primark Store to our customers in Belfast.

Why didn’t you just knock it down?

Despite the extensive damage the listed status of the building provides it with legal protection, which means planning permission is required to allow for the redevelopment of the fire damaged structure.

The listing applies to the whole structure of the building, inside and out, which requires us to consider carefully how it can be reinstated, restored or repaired.

Our conservation led approach to its redevelopment has required the careful assessment of all features and recovered material.

Why is the building listed? What does B1 listed mean?
The building was built between 1885 and 1900 to the designs of W.H. Lynn and is considered a fine example of High Victorian style reflecting the aspirations of Belfast as a mercantile centre as well as a testimonial to the achievements of W.H. Lynn.

Listed Buildings are divided into three grades; A, B+ and B to give an indication of their relative importance.

Since 1987 buildings have been divided into 2 main groups, namely B1 and B2. Generally B1 is chosen for buildings that qualify for listing by virtue of a relatively wide selection of attributes. Usually these will include interior features or where one of more features are of exceptional quality and/or interest.

Why has it taken so long to get here?

The devastating fire of 2018 destroyed the Bank Buildings and resulted in months of efforts to make the building safe, and save the historic structure from collapse.

Safety cordons were put in place to protect the public and surrounding buildings from what was now a structurally vulnerable historic building.

Why do you have to take down part of the wall on Bank Street?
The wall is structurally unsound, and so we have secured listed building consent to remove part of the wall to allow for removal of damaged material and make the building safe.

Why did you have to remove the upper features of the building, including the Clock tower?
Masonry and plinth has been removed, and is being carefully numbered and catalogued so that, where possible, these materials can be rebuilt to the precise specification of the original building.
How long will the Cordon be in place?
The cordon is now fully reduced to allow circulation around the building; however, construction hoarding will be in place for approximately three years.

Who is responsible for the construction site?
The construction site is managed by Primark. The construction hoarding is expected to be in place for three years.

Who put in place the temporary play / park areas and why have they been removed?
Belfast City Council introduced the temporary play park to drive footfall around the cordon to support business in the city centre, impacted by the fire. When the cordon was removed the temporary arrangement was also removed to allow vehicle access back into the area.

Are their plans to permanently pedestrianizing the street outside, will Primark deliver this?
This was a Belfast City Council initiative and as such we do not have this information.

Will there be any further financial contributions to traders for loss of trade as a result of the fire / construction?
We have contributed £500,000 to a £6million fund, and will continue to engage with traders, shoppers and the local community in order to support our city.
When will the Bank Buildings / Primark be open again?

A temporary Primark store was reopened in the completed extension of Commonwealth House - immediately adjacent to the Bank Buildings, and a second store on Fountain House opened in December 2018.

Planning for the reconstructed flagship Primark Store within the restored Bank Buildings is expected by the end of the year.

Subject to planning construction is expected to take up to three years.

It is anticipated that the Bank Buildings will be full restored and operational again as soon as possible.

How big with the Primark be in terms of floor space/floors?

The target sales area will be between 80,000 and 90,000 square feet when combined with the Commonwealth House building.

Internal changes will be made, influenced by the construction build to retain all safe pre-existing façade.

However the floor plates have been engineered to deliver a similar floor space to the new store.

The Castle Street store will then be connected to deliver the intended extension, and will function as one store.

Will it have the full range/are any additional features planned for the shop like the new store in Birmingham?
The new store will have the latest retail layout, and these details will be confirmed as the scheme develops However consideration is being given to a customer café and we look forward to welcoming customers back to a new larger store.

How long is the lease/what commitment have Primark made to the store and the city?

There is no lease. Primark owns the building

The Bank Buildings are Primark’s flagship store in the city.

Primark are committed to Belfast and the future success of the city centre

Do we need another Primark now they have opened another 2 shops in the city? Does Primark intend on keeping all of them open?
The Castle Street store, will become the extension to Bank Buildings, and re-open as one store. We will continue to consider and review the future of our Fountain House store once the reconstruction of Bank Buildings is complete.
What will the building look like / will it look like it used to look before the fire?

Yes. The Bank Buildings will be fully restored.

Due to the extensive fire damage a careful assessment of all retained and salvageable material has taken place.

There will be some small difference due to the requirement of the restoration, and modern building regulations.

Any safe original material will be reused in the restoration, and where originals features have been damaged beyond repair they will be replaced using like for like materials.

What materials will be used in the restoration of the building?
The building will be constructed from sandstone and granite. Original stonework will be used where possible and, where this cannot be done, a like for like replacement will be used.

Will the building remain the same height as it used to be?
Yes, there will be realignment of the roof line.

Will there be any change in the visual impact this could have on the local area?

Do you know what the layout of the building will be?
The internal layout will be a similar to that presented in the original plans for the store extension. The new store will have the latest retail layout, and these details will be confirmed as the scheme develops

Will it be any different inside to how it used to be once redeveloped?
Yes, but these will be mainly in line with what was planned previously.

What are the differences between the old and restored building inside and out?

Proposed changes to the exterior are very minor:

The opportunity is being taken to remove some of the more recent ah-hoc alterations - such as changing inappropriately altered windows back to their original Victorian pattern and removing the ground floor window roller shutters and casings.

The modern walling to Bank Street introduced after the 1970’s bomb damage will be reinstated in a more appropriate brick type and the string course reinstated in brick and stonework.

The 1970 tiled finish to the blank panels on Castle Street will be changed to granite facings.

The naturally slated mansard roof will be rationalised in it’s reinstatement with a consistent higher ridge to tidy up vies of rooftop plant.

Minor changes to escape door positions are made to accommodate building control standards in internal layout.

The internal layout will be a similar to that presented in the original plans for the store extension. The new store will have the latest retail layout, and these details will be confirmed as the scheme develops.

Do we know how the fire originally started?
There is an ongoing investigation in to the cause of the fire by the NI Fire and Rescue Service.

What measures can be taken to ensure another fire doesn’t happen?
New fire/smoke and sprinkler systems will be installed.

Was there a sprinkler system in the original building?

How much of the original building is left?

It is important that the original character of the Bank Buildings is retained and revived through the redevelopment process. The ongoing efforts to stabilise heritage features has allowed for the retention of much of the historically significant external walls.

Our project team have been investigating the current physical condition of the building, assessing risks and identifying methods to allow the retention of heritage features where possible.

How much of the original material is salvageable?
All salvageable material has been carefully assessed and stored, and where possible will be reused in the restoration.

What would need to be demolished to allow for the rebuild?
This is presently being assessed.

Will you be able to retain the original façade?

Two listed building consents have already been approved to allow the safe removal of materials and careful assessment of fire damaged stonework facade, internals and the remaining structure, including the 4th floor cornice and clock face.

A strategy to stabilise the façade and deconstruct fragile features was sought under Listed Building Consent and the initial works to prevent further degradation of the building and ensure its safety are underway. This has included the careful removal of unstable historic stonework that has been retained for reuse where possible.

What has happened to the materials/clock tower that has been removed?
Possible reusable items have been put in storage for assessment. Unusable items will be replaced with like for like materials.

Do you think you will be able to restore the building to its original look and style?
Yes, the building will be fully reconstructed, including restoration or like for like replacement of the façade stonework and other architectural features

Will the development use modern or more traditional methods?
The conservation led external reconstruction will seek to restore the façade and features with original materials, and were possible like for like replacements were these have been fire damaged beyond repair. The internals will be upgraded to meet current building regulation requirements.

Are there any listed buildings nearby that could be impacted by the development?
Measures put in place, including the container perimeter and hoarding, are to protect the façade and original structure and seek to minimise impact on surrounding buildings during restoration and construction.

How will you minimise impact on nearby business affected by the cordon and construction?
Primark will continue to engage with traders, shoppers and the local community in order to support the city. A construction management plan will be submitted alongside the planning application and like the development of the Commonwealth House extension will be a Considered Constructors scheme.

How will you ensure that no further damage occurs to the listed buildings?
A methodology for the undertaking the restoration works will be submitted as part of the planning application, this will be assessed by Belfast City Council and HED, and we would anticipate that HED will remain involved in the construction to oversee the restoration work.
Will construction require the roads to be closed again?
It is not envisaged at present. However, any road closure would be subject to DfI regulations requiring advance notification.

When will everything be completely back to normal?
From two to three years from planning receipt.

Will there be any long term changes to road access as a result of the development?

What impact will the development have on traffic?
No more so than the existing impact of the current site hoardings.

Will access to any surrounding buildings be restricted during construction? Will this impact on local businesses?
Beyond the current cordon it is not anticipated there will be any further impact during construction, any requirement to temporarily distribute traffic during construction will require agreement with DfI Roads Services.

Would the construction impact on pedestrian use of the surrounding space?
Yes a site hoarding is in place, once the structure is safe, and construction has proceeded sufficiently, the site hoarding and container structural support will be removed. This will be subject to agreement with Belfast City Council, Building Control.
When will the application be submitted?
Anticipated to be submitted in August 2019.

When will you be looking start building?
January 2020.

How long will the construction work take?
Two to three years.

How will the construction phase impact on day-to-day activity around the development site for businesses and users of the surrounding area?

The development will be a Considered Constructors scheme.

It is not envisaged that the reconstruction will create any further impact than any other city centre building site.

Primark will continue to engage with traders, shoppers and the local community during the construction process.

Will there be a construction plan / will construction take place at all times of the day throughout the week?
A standard 6 day construction work week is envisaged. Construction will take place 7am-7pm Monday-Friday, and 7am-1pm on Saturday. There will be no Sunday construction without advance notice.
Why are you holding a public consultation?
In order to begin reconstruction we must first apply for planning permission from Belfast City Council. We have submitted a proposal of application notice (PAN) to Belfast City Council, beginning a period of formal community consultation before a planning application is submitted later this year. Two pre-application community consultation public information events, will be held by Primark on June 20th and 25th at our Castle Street store in Belfast city centre.All public feedback will be submitted alongside the planning application as part of a pre-application community consultation report (PACCR)

Who are you consulting with?

This consultation is open to the all members of the public and we welcome feedback from members of the public, neighbouring businesses, elected representatives and Primark staff.

We will be hold separate consultation events with surrounding businesses and heritage groups.

How can I submit my comments?

There are a number of additional ways you can comment. You can do this by:


Via our online feedback form - click here.

Consultation Hotline: 0808 1688 296.

How long do I have to comment?
Please submit all feedback by 15 July 2019.

What are planning to do with the consultation feedback?

All feedback submitted will be summarised in a Pre-Application Community Consultation Report which will be submitted alongside the planning application. Personal details will not be shared with a third party and we will not contact you in relation to any other project or for marketing purposes.

The information you provide will be stored securely until determination of the planning applications. Following determination, this information will be deleted. Unless you have indicated otherwise, we will not contact you about this development.