Belfast City Council is to contribute £1.25 million to help towards the recovery of the city centre in the wake of the Bank Buildings fire.
A week after Primark announced it is to donate £500,000 to the fund, members of Belfast City Council’s strategic policy and resources committee agreed on Friday to inject more resources to aid traders impacted by the fire that destroyed the Primark store last month.
The funds wil be used in a variety of ways including atracting people into the city centre and assisting traders.
Councillors also agreed that a cash flow support package for the worst affected businesses would be developed over the next two weeks.
“The scale of this disaster has had an immediate and profound impact on Belfast city centre and has left us facing huge challenges in the weeks and months ahead,” said committee chair Jim Rodgers.
“We are determined as a council to lead this recovery operation and offer our business community all the support it needs to get back to business as usual, and to support those traders who, while outside the cordon, are also suffering a reduction in footfall and sales.”
Stressing that each business had different needs and priorities, he said it was vital for agencies and traders to work together “to deliver the best support programme possible, and ensure Belfast’s economic resilience in the longer term”.
“This will not be a short term fix but support investment in regeneration of the city.”
The programme is planned to run into 2019, focusing towards Christmas trading and beyond.
It will provide targeted support for businesses severely affected and invest ty to improve connection and movement and make key streets and thoroughfares attractive.
The programme will fund opportunities and animations to increase footfall to key streets - so that closed off areas created by the cordon are attractive destinations.
Northern Ireland Retail Consortium director, Aodhán Connolly said: “This intervention by Belfast City Council is another boost to those traders and the area affected by the fire.
“With the money already pledged by Primark, this will go a long way to alleviate the hardship being felt by those inside the cordon who remain closed as well as those outside the cordon who have seen footfall drop by up to 90%.
“However central government needs now to step up and support this area.
“This is not just one small area but a main thoroughfare which is essentially cutting the city centre in two.
“Most of all we need the support of consumers to come in to the city and spend not only their money but their time. Belfast is still open for business.”
Councillors are also calling on central government, both here in Northern Ireland and via the NIO, to invest in the recovery package.