Backpacker hostel plan above city pub

YET another backpacker hostel is being planned for the city centre with a bid to open a new facility above an Irish-themed pub.

The owners of Malone’s Irish Bar at Forrest Road, Keasim Ltd, have been awarded listed building consent from the city council to convert the two floors above the premises into a 32-bed facility made up of four rooms.

The project still requires full planning permission from the city council before the plans can get under way, but so far no objections have been received.

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Robin Keane, of Keasim, said: “It will be a much better use of the building than it was before.

“There won’t really be any changes to the building, but we will be aiming to bring it back to a more traditional state and reinstate some of the features like cornices and things.

“It’s currently being used as office space and has the low ceiling and office lights.

“We just couldn’t let the space out and we were trying to think of something else to do with it.”

The opening of hostels in the area has proved controversial in the past. In 2009, dozens of residents objected after The Art Roch hostel in West Port – which had already been granted permission for a 54-bed “apartment hotel” – decided to change it to a 200-bed budget hostel and cafe.

Neighbours believed the hostel would attract rowdy groups of guests and add to existing problems with alcohol-related disorder.

But so far plans for the much smaller Forest Road facility have not provoked any protest.

“It’s really going to be a small hostel, nothing like the big ones that are in Edinburgh,” added Mr Keane.

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Roddy Paul, a partner with James Paul Associates, the architects behind the plans, said: “Hopefully it will take about four to five months’ convert time.

“Once we get the planning permission in place we will be cracking on to get this up and running as soon as possible.

“The people who want to run it do have experience in running a hostel and have just completed one at the Isle of Skye, which has proved very successful.”

Old town councillor Charles Dundas said: “There’s such a great need for cheap accommodation in the city.

“I know hostels are seldom welcome, but they do have to go somewhere.

“And if it’s the alternative to having a noisy pub or a noisy hostel, I think that’s what people would go for.

“The interesting thing about planning is the use class for hostels is exactly the same as a five-star hotel.

“So it’s always difficult to tell what an operation is going to be like – the Balmoral and a Backpackers Hostel come in to exactly the same category.”