Thriving city centre key to Belfast’s recovery
A thriving, reimagined city centre will be key to Belfast’s long-term recovery from the ongoing Covid19 pandemic, and will require a “multi-faceted approach”, a council committee has heard.
Members of Belfast City Council’s City Growth and Regeneration Committee were last night (Wed 14 April) updated on Council’s Future City Centre programme, which is being “recast” in light of challenges impacting on the city centre as a result of the pandemic.
The programme will focus on delivering a thriving, vibrant city centre to create a “multi-purpose location”, combining business, retail and hospitality with an emphasis on increased city centre living and place-making, and creating space for culture, leisure and families.
Councillor David Brooks, chair of Belfast City Council’s City Growth and Regeneration Committee, said:
“Covid-19 has struck the very heart of what cities do best and a recent report by ‘Centre for Cities’ has emphasised the importance of thriving city centres in aiding recovery, creating jobs and bringing about economic benefits for the wider region.
“Council has renewed its focus on the programme and is working closely with the Department for Communities, Department for Infrastructure and other key city partners to roll out the fundamental next steps. Going forward it is critical that we work together with all city stakeholders across the public and private sector to drive the programme forward.”
Members of the committee also agreed to progress with Council’s joint connectivity study with DfC and DfI; A Bolder Vision will move to the next phase of identifying initiatives and potential interventions that can be brought forward in tandem with the project’s final delivery.
Councillor Brooks added:
“We need to inject new life into the city core and encourage city centre living. This is more critical now than ever as a thriving residential population will be integral to a reimagined city centre.
“Our connectivity study work will also be transformational in terms of how we use our streets and places going forward.
“We recognise that our city centre is key in driving recovery, as well as generating longer term economic growth. To this end, the city centre is at the top of our agenda as we prepare to reopen safely in the coming weeks.
“There is a pressing need, now more than ever to plan ahead with our city partners to ensure a joined up and collective approach is adopted in order to facilitate recovery and create an attractive, healthy, vibrant and accessible city centre.”
As well as creating a vibrant shared place where people will want to live, work and invest, the programme also aims to improve sustainability and connectivity within the city and surrounding communities, as well as continue investment, and inclusive economic and cultural growth.
Councillor Brook said:
“It is clear that Belfast, in line with other cities, needs to reconsider the purpose of the city centre and how we can create a multi-purpose location. We are exploring how we combine retail and hospitality with business, culture, housing, community and other facilities. We are also embracing innovation and digital technology in new ways that will help aid recovery.
“It is critical that we remain agile as we re-imagine our city centre, dealing with the ever-changing challenges and responding swiftly to opportunities. Belfast will remain the economic driver for the region so fostering a vibrant city centre and social hub is vital in keeping our city thriving and the region strong.”
The decision of the committee is subject to ratification by full Council when it next meets in May.
For more information on the council’s Future City Centre Programme visit: