Belfast events as Council moves on Primark blaze

The fire which wrecked the old Primark store
The fire which wrecked the old Primark store

A ski slope, ferris wheel and a mini festival have been announced in a programme of events aimed at helping Belfast recover following a major fire.

Belfast City Council has announced details of a £1.69 million package aimed at attracting people into the city centre.

It is also seeking an urgent meeting with the Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley and the head of Civil Service David Sterling to discuss financial support for the package as well as the long term recovery of the city centre.

Earlier this week it emerged that a fire which devastated the front section of the Bank Buildings in Belfast caused a 30% drop in footfall.

The historic building, which housed Primark, was destroyed in the fire which started on August 28 and took several days to put out.

A cordon has been extended around the perimeter leaving 14 businesses unable to trade.

Restrictions are expected to be in place until after Christmas, Belfast City Council has said.

The city infrastructure investment includes tourism and family attractions such as a ski slope, ferris wheel, amusements and family zones.

The council is also investing in outdoor seating and tables, enhanced street lighting and street art, to improve the landscape while work on Bank Buildings continues.

“This package to make the city centre a destination is as innovative as it is welcome,” said Northern Ireland Retail Consortium director Aodhán Connolly.

“Belfast City Centre has a great retail, leisure and hospitality mix and this plan does what we have been calling for, it gets people to spend their time and their money here.

Looking ahead to the Budget on October 29, he said it was time for high level support for a major UK city.

“Primark and the City Council have stepped up to the mark and now with the Budget looming we need the Chancellor to out his hand in his pocket to support Belfast.

“These shops are not just traders’ livelihoods but their lives. Most of all we need shoppers to come down and enjoy the events and the bargains,” he added.

The main programme of larger events starts on October 26 with the Castle Street fair.

Events that follow will include the Halloween family tours and activity, the Monster Mash, the Red Bull F1 Showdown and Eddie Irvine Racing, a mini Mela, a mini Festival of Fools and a Victorian fair.

The council is also considering extending the Christmas market at City Hall, subject to interest from traders.

“We know that businesses around the cordon are really suffering from a drop in footfall,” said Alderman Jim Rodgers, chair of the Strategic Policy and Resources committee.

“This programme of activity will enhance what Belfast has to offer and help to bring people into the city centre, particularly in the run up to Christmas.”