Stylish social housing for East Belfast

Leo Matheson Ltd project boosts social housing provision for East Belfast… 

Leo Matheson Ltd has successfully delivered a unique apartment development with a mixed offering of attractive social housing and affordable sale and rental apartment development for Choice Housing in East Belfast.

The Lewis Mews apartments comprise five blocks providing 71 new units. The scope of works included access, parking, cycle bays, open spaces, landscaping and all associated site works.

Built on the old Gallaghers’ cigarette factory site, the crescent-shaped building sits alongside the Connswater Greenway and mirrors the curve of the river bank. The rear, outer circle of the build was constructed first with materials brought through from the front (inner circle).

Construction involved blockwork, brickwork, timber and precast units to the ground and first floors. The steel frame with Sika flat roof overhang, zinc facia and soffits all follow the curve design of the building. A central plant room was built at the lobby entrance with risers at either end of the curved corridors.


Initially a private development before being acquired by social housing association, Choice Housing, the project required a number of redesigns to be undertaken for it to meet the client’s stringent compliance needs. For example, the apartments had to meet Lifetime Homes Standard and Secured by Design guidelines.

Leo Matheson Ltd’s team took measures to circumvent potential issues of overspill or contamination from the site into the adjacent River Connswater, or on to the Greenway pedestrian walkway. The poor ground on the brownfield site required piled foundations to be designed and drilled. Great care was taken to miminise the noise pollution to the nearby existing housing stock.

The curved design added an increased layer of complexity to an already complex project, which was exacerbated by overhead power cables. Cranes were not permitted due to health and safety reasons so any lift higher than the reach of a forklift truck had to be carried manually using winches etc. It also meant Block C – directly below the cables – had to be dropped from a three-storey to a two-storey building for safety reasons.

This new development is unique in its mixed offering of quality social housing provision alongside affordable sale and rental options, aimed at increasing the supply of affordable homes for young people and families trying to get on to the property ladder.

Choice Group Chief Executive, Michael McDonnell stated, “The number of people on social housing waiting lists in Northern Ireland has risen by 10% during the pandemic and developments like Lewis Mews, which will facilitate a mix of living needs across 71 new homes in accessible areas is vital in addressing this need.”

The scheme, located in the Sydenham area of East Belfast, is within walking distance of Victoria Park and Connswater Shopping Centre with accessible public transport offering short commutes to Belfast City Centre, the George Best City Airport and the SSE Arena.

Leo Matheson from Leo Matheson LTD commented, “This is a significant investment in quality affordable housing for the East Belfast area, made more unique by the offering of a mix of private and social housing provision. Working with Choice and partners we were able to develop a project which provided quality sustainable living options to meet the growing demand for housing.

“The development will also further enhance the visuals of the surrounding Connswater Greenway area whilst maintaining the convenience of nearby residential properties.”

For the full feature on Lewis Square, see issue 33-5 of NI Builder here.