Primark fire: Council to invest £1.7m in bid to drive footfall in city centre

Belfast City Council has announced details of a large-scale programme of events designed to drive footfall in the heart of Belfast and aid the city’s economic recovery following the Primark fire.

The announcement comes just hours after Ashers Baking Company announced that it is to close its city centre store due to a huge drop in sales in the weeks since the blaze at nearby Bank Buildings in August, and subsequent road closures amid fears the remains of the historic property could collapse.

The burnt out remains of the Primark store in Belfast city centre

The burnt out remains of the Primark store in Belfast city centre

Business owner Daniel McArthur confirmed that the Royal Avenue bakery and cafe will close at the end of October. • Read full story here.

Many other businesses in the vicinity of the cordon at Castle Junction/Castle Street/Royal Avenue have also seen a dramatic drop in footfall since the Primark fire.

Members of the council’s Strategic Policy and Resources Committee have agreed a £1.69 million package aimed at making the city centre a destination for visitors.

Designed to complement the city’s retail offering, the programme of events will run from now until spring 2019.

The city infrastructure investment will include tourism and family attractions such as a ski slope, Ferris wheel, amusements and family zones.

There will also be significant investment in environmental improvements in the city centre open spaces.

Consideration is also being given to extending the popular Christmas market at City Hall down Donegall Place, subject to interest from traders.

“We know that businesses around the cordon are really suffering from a drop in footfall. 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. We want to see Belfast bustling with shoppers and families and having these major attractions will help to bring people into the areas which have been most impacted by the fire at Bank Buildings,” said Alderman Jim Rodgers.

Meanwhile, the council has stressed that it is proactively seeking solutions and working with Primark to reduce the safety cordon around Bank Buildings as soon as it is safe to do so.

Depending on the outcome of the consultation around Primark’s proposed works, council said it is hopeful that pedestrian access could potentially be restored between Donegall Place and Royal Avenue “as soon as possible – subject to health and safety considerations.”

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