Primark re-opening hailed... but businesses still stress cordon worries

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

Confirmation that Primark is to re-open in Belfast in early December has been welcomed as “good news for the city centre as a whole.”

The retailer revealed on Tuesday that it plans to unveil its new store on December 8 at Commonwealth House in Castle Street – the multi-million pound extension that was being completed just before the fire in late August which destroyed the adjoining Bank Buildings.

The burnt out shell of the Primark store at Castle Junction. The retailer is to open a new store in the extension at the rear of the property on December 8. Pic: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

The burnt out shell of the Primark store at Castle Junction. The retailer is to open a new store in the extension at the rear of the property on December 8. Pic: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

A spokesperson for Primark said the company is also hoping to open a new store in Fountain House, Royal Avenue in spring 2019.

A joint statement issued by Belfast Chamber of Commerce president Rajesh Rana, Retail NI CEO Glyn Roberts and Hospitality Ulster CEO Colin Neill said: “This is a welcome development which will increase footfall for the Castle Street traders who have been suffering greatly reduced trade since the fire.

“It is also good news for Belfast city centre as a whole that a Primark store will be open before Christmas.”

Belfast City Council recently approved Primark’s application to begin conservation works at Bank Buildings, which could see the safety cordon around the burnt out property reduced within a matter of weeks – welcome news for the many businesses that have been suffering due to reduced footfall in the area since the fire.

“Progress is still slow in re-opening the cordon and we still have a very serious situation with businesses in Royal Avenue which have been experiencing dramatically reduced trade,” the statement added.

“We need to see the cordon opened as soon as practically and safely possible.”

Meanwhile, the three organisations have said they must be fully consulted to ensure the £2m promised by the Treasury for the city centre is spent in the most appropriate way.

Stressing the council will continue to support businesses, SDLP councillor Tim Attwood said Primark re-opening was “an extremely welcome development for the city”.