It’s almost a forgotten concept these days but waiting is tough

Nearly a month from the fire traders in the city centre still have little idea of what is happening
Nearly a month from the fire traders in the city centre still have little idea of what is happening

It’s still quite shocking when, after walking down the eerily quiet Donegall Place, you arrive at the cordon surrounding Primark and immediately the acrid smell of the gutted Bank Buildings hits you.

It’s equally odd staring through the barrier along with almost everyone else at the buildings situated inside the cordon looking for all the world like the set of some kind of post apocalyptic movie.

It’s simply incredible, however, that after almost a month since the fire ripped through the store, we are still apparently little further along the road to finding out whether or not the frontage will have to come down, or if it can be secured and saved as part of a rebuild.

It’s a positive we must suppose, though Pete Boyle would doubtless disagree - that the scorched, fragile frontage remained more or less intact as Storm Ali battered the provinnce this week.

It was by no means a given as Belfast City Council stressed in a statement containing the welcome news that it is giving £1.25 million to the recovery fund.

The building, it says, remains in an extremely dangerous state with Ali bringing down an internal steel beam and blowing loose debris off the building.

The greatest concerns, it added, lie around the stability of the chimneys, clock tower and the upper floor.

“Significant expert assessment of the building is ongoing,” it said.

“Given the precarious nature/level of instability of the building this remains a difficult process.”

In this instant age where no-one really has to wait for anything anymore, the time it is taking to tackle the issue is particularly harsh for the traders inside the cordon obviously, but also outside as footfall continues to be affected.

The funds from Primark and now the Council are of course to be hugely welcomed and will go some way to easing the situation thetraders face.

But the harsh truth remains - like that acrid smell in the air - that until the cordon is dismantled the city centre, instead of bringing people together, will continue to serve as some sort of perverse, reverse focal point keeping people apart.