Thriving city is key to Belfast’s recovery

A thriving, reimagined city centre will be key to Belfast’s long-term recovery from the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, and will require a “multi-faceted approach”, Councillors have said.

Friday, 7th May 2021, 6:00 am
Belfast City Hall landscape

Members of Belfast City Council have committed to delivering Council’s Future City Centre programme, which has been “recast” in light of challenges impacting on the city centre as a result of the pandemic.

The programme will focus on a thriving, vibrant city centre to create a “multi-purpose location”, combining business, retail and hospitality with an emphasis on increased city centre living and place-making, and creating space for culture, leisure and families.

Cllr David Brooks, chair of Belfast City Council’s City Growth and Regeneration Committee said: “Covid-19 has struck the very heart of what cities do best and a recent report by ‘Centre for Cities’ has emphasised the importance of thriving city centres in aiding recovery, creating jobs and bringing about economic benefits for the wider region.

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Belfast City Centre

“Council has renewed its focus on the programme and is working closely with the Department for Communities, Department for Infrastructure and other key city partners to roll out the fundamental next steps. Going forward it is critical that we work together with all city stakeholders across the public and private sector to drive the programme forward.”

Members have also agreed to progress with Council’s joint connectivity study with DfC and DfI; A Bolder Vision will move to the next phase of identifying initiatives and potential interventions that can be brought forward in tandem with the project’s final delivery.

Cllr Brooks continued: “We need to inject new life into the city core and encourage city centre living. This is more critical now than ever as a thriving residential population will be integral to a reimagined city centre. Our connectivity study work will also be transformational in terms of how we use our streets and places going forward.

“We recognise that our city centre is key in driving recovery, as well as generating longer term economic growth. To this end, the city centre is at the top of our agenda as we prepare to reopen safely in the coming weeks. There is a pressing need, now more than ever to plan ahead with our city partners to ensure a joined up and collective approach is adopted in order to facilitate recovery and create an attractive, healthy, vibrant and accessible city centre.”

As well as creating a vibrant shared place where people will want to live, work and invest, the programme also aims to improve sustainability and connectivity within the city and surrounding communities, as well as continue investment and inclusive economic and cultural growth.

Cllr Brook added: “It is clear that Belfast, in line with other cities, needs to reconsider the purpose of the city centre and how we can create a multi-purpose location. We are exploring how we combine retail and hospitality with business, culture, housing, community and other facilities. We are also embracing innovation and digital technology in new ways that will help aid recovery.

“It is critical that we remain agile as we re-imagine our city centre, dealing with the ever-changing challenges and responding swiftly to opportunities. Belfast will remain the economic driver for the region so fostering a vibrant city centre and social hub is vital in keeping our city thriving and the region strong.”

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