Eight months after fire destroyed the historic Bank Buildings in Belfast city centre, property owners Primark say the cause of the blaze is still being investigated.
The retail chain, which opened its new store at Donegall Place yesterday, said it is continuing to work with the authorities to establish how the fire, which gutted the five-storey listed building last August, broke out.
Speaking to the News Letter yesterday, a Primark spokesperson said: “Investigations are still being carried out into the cause of the fire so it isn’t appropriate for us to speculate or comment on the cause. We remain committed to working with the authorities to establish the cause of the fire.”
While the upper levels of the building’s shell having been taken down and the safety cordon around the site reduced, the company said it is still unable to provide a timeframe for the redevelopment project.
“This is a complex process and the safety of the construction team and general public is paramount,” the spokesperson said.
“We will continue to work with the council and other stakeholders to expedite this conservation-led approach as much as we can within the guidelines of the required legal and planning process.”
Primark is unable to say “at this stage” how much the overall Bank Buildings redevelopment scheme is likely to cost, but the firm’s spokesperson said “the full replacement cost of the building and resulting business interruption is insured.”
Ulster Architectural Heritage – one of the groups that campaigned for the building to be saved in the wake of the devastating fire – has praised Primark and Belfast City Council for their efforts so far.
John Anderson, the organisation’s vice chairman, said: “Primark deserve a lot of credit in this as they did exactly what the concerned owner of a listed building should have done in this situation.”
He also credited the council’s Historic Environment Division for its role in trying to save the listed structure.