Reclaiming Belfast city centre – A joint statement

joint statement primark

Contributions and marketing efforts have been focused on getting consumers back into high-street shopping in Belfast city centre, but is it working?

After the devastating fire that ripped through the Bank Buildings earlier this month, there has been worry for the continued growth and footfall of Belfast city centre shopping.

Primark Building

The devastation caused by the fire at the Bank Building’s.

Belfast Chamber of Commerce, Hospitality Ulster and Retail NI jointly met with the head of Civil Service, NI Permanent Secretaries and Belfast City Council yesterday to discuss further Government action to support the City Centre after the Primark Fire.

In a joint statement, Rajesh Rana, president of Belfast Chamber, Glyn Roberts, CEO of Retail NI and Colin Neill, CEO of Hospitality Ulster said:

“We welcome the investment Primark, Belfast City Council and Department for Communities (DFC) have made in the City Recovery Fund and the work that BCC has done to date.

“However, the priority now is to get the cordon reduced to allow pedestrian flow to resume across all the affected streets.”

Many have already raised concerns that the cordon will hinder independent businesses, and could cripple business in the run up to Christmas.

The joint statement continued, “We, and our members who make up the majority of businesses in the retail core and beyond, are extremely frustrated that there is still no firm plan for doing this.

“We have had meetings with the Secretary of State, BCC, MPs and the heads of the Civil Service, all of whom have been helpful, but no concrete plans have been put in place.

“The decision to move this forward lies with Primark and we understand that some form of application is planned for next week.

What needs to be done?

The individual representatives then called for the process of making an application and the decision process to be, “as quick as possible, and for the cordon to be reduced in the very near future.”

“Any delay in reducing the cordon beyond the end of October would be seriously detrimental to the long-term viability of many businesses in city centre as this would seriously impact on the Christmas trading season.”

The overall economic impact is likely to run into hundreds of millions of pounds, and every day there is a delay, it increases further.

They concluded by stating, “We call on Primark and all stakeholders to bear in mind the need to come to the fastest resolution and to work to a date of end of October at the latest.”

This plea is backed by the plethora of businesses that have been affected by the blaze. Without executive decisions being made, the TV, social and radio advertising could be for nothing.

It is yet to be seen what the overall outcome of this will be but unless action is taken, the future looks bleak for city centre shopping.

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