Belfast’s big screen set to be sold off

Tennis fans enjoy Wimbledon on the front lawn of City Hall in 2012.

Tennis fans enjoy Wimbledon on the front lawn of City Hall in 2012.

It is looking likely that a vast publicly-owned television set will be sold off.

The big screen has stood at Belfast City Hall since June 2011, beaming programmes across the western lawn of the hall’s grounds.

A woman walks by the big screen, as seen through the old columns at the City Hall entrance

A woman walks by the big screen, as seen through the old columns at the City Hall entrance

It could remain until 2019 when its planning permission expires – however, councillors on Friday agreed to put the structure up for sale instead.

The screen was one of 21 installed across the UK – with Londonderry also obtaining one of them, based in Waterloo Place in the city centre.

The screen had come free thanks to a scheme linked to the 2012 Olympic games.

An annual budget of around £27,000 was allocated for its running costs.

As well as daily viewers who watch the screen whilst waiting at Belfast City Hall, the TV has also proved a significant draw during large-scale sporting events and at commemorative gatherings.

The screen is now in need of an upgrade costing around £100,000 (plus VAT).

On Friday, at a meeting of Belfast City Council’s Strategic Policy and Resources Committee (SP&R), councillors agreed to put it up for sale – a move which still requires ratification by the full council on October 3.

UUP councillor David Browne, representing the Castle area of north Belfast, said that although there had been no vote, the decision of the cross-party committee had been “unanimous”.

He believed that the ultimate bill for ensuring the screen is able to continue broadcasting could be much higher than the £100,000-plus-tax upgrade figure cited by the council.

And, like the now-vanished big wheel at the City Hall, he believes the screen would have been better suited to the wide, paved space of Custom House Square in the city centre.

Asked if the October 3 meeting may over-rule the decision to sell it, he said: “No, no. It will go through. All parties were represented. Everyone agreed it was an expense we didn’t need to incur.”

He said: “I’d say there will be people who’ll miss it. There’d be people in there every day who do sit and watch it.

“Who would buy it? – that’s another question.”

The likely price, and method of sale, are not known yet.

The screen is about 26ft high, and about 37ft wide.

By contrast, a typical 32-inch household TV set might measure about 1.3ft high by 2.3ft wide.

The aim had been to draw 50,000 annual viewers to the screen.

The council said that it has drawn “over 200,000” since the date it was installed.