Primark fire: Council steps up efforts to help city centre recover after blaze

Bank Buildings in Belfast
Bank Buildings in Belfast

Belfast City Council has said it is intensifying its efforts to help the city centre recover from a major fire that devastated a landmark building.

The front section of the historic Bank Buildings was destroyed in a blaze on Tuesday which took firefighters days to extinguish.

A cordon has been placed around Bank Buildings after Tuesday's fire

A cordon has been placed around Bank Buildings after Tuesday's fire

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) is working to establish what caused the inferno.

One fire appliance remains at the scene as a precautionary measure.

Key stakeholders met at Belfast City Hall on Friday.

In a statement, a spokesman for Belfast City Council said they were continuing to intensify efforts to keep the city centre open for business.

"The strategic policy and resources committee, alongside other agencies, today resolved to ensure that council continues its efforts to restore the city to the very vibrant place that it is," the spokesman said.

"Belfast City Council will continue to host meetings for key holders and businesses to provide information and support in the days ahead.

"Council officers are also in close daily contact with businesses in the immediate area of the fire to offer whatever support they can to ensure they can continue to operate.

"We are liaising with representatives from Primark to assist in any way we can, for example, should they wish to seek alternative accommodation within the city centre.

"Members of the strategic policy and resources committee agree it is important that as a city, we continue to rally round to support those affected by this devastating event."

It is not known how long the cordon is going to remain in place.

Businesses operating on Castle Street, which remains within the cordoned-off zone, were able to open on Friday, but were continuing to struggle.

They were complimentary about the work of the fire service, but expressed frustration at the continuing cordon.

Paul Donaghy, owner of Cafe West, said he was having to throw fresh produce out as he was not able to sell it.

"Usually at lunch time we have queues out the door," he said.

"But many people don't realise we are open. It has knocked the heart out of me."

The Oxfam charity shop a few doors down was also struggling.

It previously benefited from a high volume of passing trade from the large Primark store in Bank Buildings.

Manager Tra Walls said she was moving racks of clothes outside the shop door to make the street look more active.

"We are not doing great," she said. "The customers that have made it to us said they weren't sure if they could come into the street.

"We are OK because we get a lot of our stock free, and we have volunteers.

"It is much tougher for businesses with staff to pay.

"I am putting racks of clothes outside to make the street look busier. Hopefully if customers can see activity on the street, they will be more likely to come down."