131 new apartments, café, gym & library approved for historic Tillie & Henderson factory site in Derry

Plans for a new apartment building occupying the former Tillie and Henderson factory site in Derry have been given the green light today at the monthly meeting of Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Planning Committee.

By Brendan McDaid
Thursday, 2nd December 2021, 7:15 am

The new development, which will be located at the cityside end of the Craigavon Bridge overlooking the River Foyle, will comprise of 131 modern apartments, with the famous metal stairway to be recreated.

The development will also feature a number of other facilities including a café, library, hair salon and gym.

The Foyle Road/ Carlisle Circus site in the city centre has lain vacant for almost 20 years, the historic shirt factory that once stood there having been demolished after a fire in 2003.

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An artist's impression of how the new development will look.

The factory was mentioned by Karl Marx in ‘Das Kapital’ and at one stage employed over 1,000 people on site and many more women across the north west working at home.

In a report recommending the approval of Full Planning permission presented at the virtual meeting on Wednesday afternoon, Members heard that 44 parking spaces would also be available on site, as well as communal amenity space for residents.

There was a positive response to the plans which will transform the prime development site which has lain derelict for many years. The former listed factory building was demolished in 2003 after it was destroyed by a fire. Planning approval had previously been granted in 2014 for a mixed-use development incorporating 139 bed hotel.

There was also a warm welcome for proposals to recreate the iconic staircase that once linked the Tillie and Henderson building to the Craigavon Bridge. Listed Building Consent was given for the connection of metal stairs to existing gates on the listed Craigavon Bridge.

An artist's impression of how the new development will look.

The stairs, while not functional, will serve as a platform to pay homage to the Factory Girls and will feature sculptures of the former workers who used the staircase to access the pedestrian gate situated on the Craigavon Bridge, which will also be refurbished. Members said it was a fitting tribute to the City’s factory industry, and celebrated the significant history and heritage of the site.

Plans submitted by the developer indicate that the apartments will be split into three blocks offering contemporary living space with high specification finishings throughout. The one and two bedroom apartments will be located over eight floors on to Foyle Road and five storeys onto Abercorn Road, and the exterior finish will be clay brick replicating the heritage of the shirt factory site.

Speaking after the meeting, Chair of the Planning Committee, Councillor Philip McKinney, said proposals for developing the site were positive. “The Tillie and Henderson site has been lying vacant for too long, and I welcome the fact that this prime location at the gateway to the city will no longer sit empty,” he declared.

“The site is ideally located for city centre living, with access to shops and restaurants, and this will bring more business into our city centre. The Transport Hub is also located nearby making it accessible for anyone travelling for work.

Thousands of local people worked at the Tillie and Henderson factory at the end of Craigavon Bridge.

“The historic Tillie and Henderson building commanded beautiful views over the Foyle, and was a proud landmark for anyone visiting the city. I’m pleased that the brick façade of the new apartment building, and the reinstatement of the iconic staircase feature, will reflect the former shirt factory design. I look forward to seeing the site occupied once again, and to seeing these exciting plans as they develop.”

Speaking after the meeting, Sinn Féin MLA Pádraig Delargy said: “This is a key landmark site at the entrance to our city centre which has been lying vacant for many years.

“It vitally important with a building project of this size that there will be ongoing engagement with local residents and Foyle Valley House during all phases of its construction.

“Councillor Patricia Logue and I will be organising meetings between the developer and residents in coming weeks to ensure that this happens.”

Alliance Councillor Rachael Ferguson meanwhile said: “This major site has been vacant for too many years in our city centre, and this substantial and handsome new development by Martin Property Group will be widely welcomed.

“And certainly the statues of former factory workers proposed for the replacement staircase at Carlisle Circus, will be a lasting tribute to the many thousands of women who worked on the site over so many years.

“Investment, jobs and residential accommodation created by a local development company and a local architect form a Win-Win future for this really prominent gateway site in our city centre”.