Flats high rise plan above Paolo’s at bottom of Waterloo Street

The former bank building in Waterloo Place. Plans have been lodged to turn part of 50-54 Waterloo Street next door into a flats complex.
The former bank building in Waterloo Place. Plans have been lodged to turn part of 50-54 Waterloo Street next door into a flats complex.

A proposed flats development at the bottom of Waterloo Street abutting the Derry Walls will rise as high as the Embassy Building across the road, if it is eventually approved by Derry City and Strabane District Council.

Ashfield Properties (NI) Ltd. wants to build 23 apartments in empty office space above Paolo’s Pizzas, Rockets and Kataya’s, according to a document lodged with the local planning authorities.

The take-away outlets at the bottom of the building, 50-52 Waterloo Street, will be unaffected by the development if approved, which will bring much of the 331 square metre development site, specifically the upper floor long-disused office space, back into use.

The developer proposes building two new floors at the top of the building, which would make it the joint highest block on Derry’s busiest public plaza alongside the Embassy Building across the way.

Any improvements to the general appearance of the building will be welcomed as it retains many traits of the notorious old Ulster Bank building next door, which until a recent revamp was regarded by many as an eyesore.

Former Environment Editor with the Irish Times Frank McDonald recently described the old bank building as “an appalling piece of rubbish.”

According to a report by Gradon Architecture, the development will include “an additional two floors to bring the height in line with the surrounding buildings, namely the Embassy Building, which fronts Waterloo Place.”

It won’t, however, impinge on the nearby conservation area centred on the Derry Walls and other historic buildings, say Gradon.

“The apartment accommodation on the upper floor will offer views both of William Street and the Strand Road and, to the rear, views over the Derry Walls,” the report states.

In reference to other buildings in the area, the architects stated: “The Embassy is poor as it is mid terrace and offers no sound rationale as to its prominence. The City Hotel and Guildhall are better examples. Both offer good book ends to their individual vista and can be viewed in a more positive light.

“Our proposal offers a book end effect to the bottom of Waterloo Street. Waterloo Street rises away to the south so the visual impact of our additional height is softened as a result.

“The proposal also offers a strong visual on approaching from the William Street site.”

Just one representation has been made in respect of the application to date and that was neither wholly in favour or opposed.

A ‘neighbour’ with an address in Clarendon Street commented: “I think this application is lacking a sectional study with the proposed building and City Walls (protected monument) and perhaps and elevational study to Waterloo Place in context with the adjacent former bank building to ascertain scale and massing of its setting.”

The application is currently under consideration and it will be now up to the local Council to decide on whether or not to approve the development.