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.
Importance of Thriving City Centres
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.”
Move To The Next Phase
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.”
Live, Work and Invest
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 here.
NIEA Sign Ambitious Prosperity Agreement with Belfast Harbour
Environment Minister Edwin Poots MLA has signed a wide-ranging and ambitious three year Prosperity Agreement between Belfast Harbour and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA).
The agreement will see the Harbour commit to reducing CO2 emissions, reducing waste, improving air and water quality and enhancing both terrestrial and marine biodiversity.
Speaking about the 11th Prosperity Agreement signed by the NIEA, the Minister said: “This is a very ambitious agreement which is an excellent example of Green Growth in action where business can grow and prosper while creating tangible environmental improvements including reducing carbon, waste and water usage.
“The agreement will see Belfast Harbour aim for a net zero target by 2030, improve biodiversity, improve air and water quality, reduce waste and aim for zero waste to landfill. This Prosperity Agreement will also see a benefit to the marine environment and I am delighted that my officials in DAERA will work even more closely with the Harbour to enhance the marine and terrestrial habitats on their 2,000 acre site.
“Belfast Harbour will invest in environmentally friendly and renewable technologies, develop its own energy, air and sustainable procurement strategies and encourage its staff, tenants and port clients to adopt more sustainable transport and resource usage practices.”
David Dobbin, Chairman Belfast Harbour said: “Belfast Harbour’s commitment to building a truly sustainable, clean, green Port is core to our Trust Port purpose. As we operate, maintain and improve our Port and Harbour Estate, our ambition is to achieve net zero carbon emissions from our operations by 2030, to reduce pollution, and to protect and enhance our natural environment and marine diversity.
“Work to deliver this is already well underway, as we introduce electric vehicles, develop our use of renewable energy, instigate studies to better understand our marine diversity and embed sustainable development across our 2,000 acre Harbour Estate.
“We are delighted to partner with the Northern Ireland Environment Agency as we accelerate and deliver our sustainability goals. We recognise that through coalition and partnership, together we can achieve so much more. By putting people, place and the environment at the heart of our sustainable business model, Belfast Harbour is developing a clean, green port, where people and planet thrive.”
Joanne Sherwood, RSPB NI Director, added: “There has never been a more important time to invest in the protection and restoration of nature. The pandemic has served as a reminder that our economy and the health of society are dependent on a flourishing natural world: decisions taken now will have a major impact for many years to come so we welcome this commitment from Belfast Harbour.”
The Minister concluded: “It is very fitting that we are signing this agreement at the RSPB Belfast’s Window on Wildlife. This is symbolic, and demonstrates Belfast Harbour’s commitment to placing the environment and sustainability at the centre of their business and I am pleased that my Department will be working in an even closer partnership with them.
“Many businesses are already thinking green – they are already doing the right thing and reaping the benefits. We want to work with progressive organisations like Belfast Harbour who are committed to sustainable growth while enhancing the environment.”
Children Asked to Share Ideas for Lord Mayor’s Time Capsule
Schoolchildren from across Belfast are being invited to share their ideas on what should be included in a time capsule which will be sealed by the city’s Lord Mayor, to be opened in 100 years.
The project is part of Belfast City Council’s Decade of Centenaries programme and aims to provide a snapshot of life in 2021 for generations to come.
Lord Mayor Alderman Frank McCoubrey has himself chosen a number of items to include in the time capsule, including a NI women’s football shirt and a special medallion to mark the centenary of the formation of Northern Ireland.
“This year marks a hugely significant milestone in Northern Ireland’s history, marking 100 years since the first Northern Ireland Parliament was opened,” said Alderman McCoubrey.
“While this milestone will mean different things for different people, Council’s Decade of Centenaries programme aims to provide a space to reflect on key historical moments and events from 1912-1922 that shaped Northern Ireland and Ireland.
“And as we look ahead to the next 100 years and wonder what life might be like then, I thought creating a time capsule would be an interesting way of capturing a little piece of history and preserving it for generations to come, so that they might have an insight into life in the city in 2021
“I’m hoping that young people will provide some inspiration as to what should be included; all suggestions are welcome but we would like it to be something that is particularly relevant to 2021 and the times we are living through.”
As a huge supporter of the Northern Ireland football team, Alderman McCoubrey said including the women’s team’s football shirt was an easy decision.
“The achievements of the NI women’s football team in making history and reaching the Euros is something we can all be very proud of,” said Alderman McCoubrey.
“I hope that when this time capsule is opened in 2121 this achievement will be seen as having been something of a turning point for women in sport, and that it is seen to inspire more young women and girls to get involved in competitive sport.”
Belfast City Council was awarded funding from the Shared History Fund, which The National Lottery Heritage Fund is delivering on behalf of the Northern Ireland Office, to deliver a number of projects to mark Northern Ireland’s centenary year, including the Lord Mayor’s time capsule project.
Young people can send their suggestions to the Lord Mayor’s Office via email firstname.lastname@example.org or share their ideas on Council’s social media channels using the hashtag #BelfastTimeCapsule
The deadline for suggestions is 4pm on Wednesday 19 May. All suggestions received will be considered by the Lord Mayor for inclusion in the time capsule which will be stored at City Hall until it is opened in 2121.