Free ‘Pay and Play’ leisure centre membership cards are now available for children across Belfast.
The membership cards entitle registered school-aged children to up to 30% off all ‘Pay and Play’ activities, including swimming, junior gym sessions, football, badminton and tennis at any Better centre in the city. It also includes access to the aqua park at Andersonstown Leisure Centre, home to Northern Ireland’s only surf simulator.
The initiative aims to make physical exercise and leisure a more inclusive, accessible, and affordable option for children aged between five and 16 as they finish school for the summer holidays.
Belfast Lord Mayor Councillor Kate Nicholl said: “It is great to see membership cards for the under 16s being introduced as they will encourage our children to live more active, healthier lifestyles.
“Belfast City Council’s £105 million Leisure Transformation Programme demonstrates our commitment to improving the health and wellbeing of our citizens. In the spirit of inclusivity, it is vital that our five-star facilities are affordable to everyone, particularly kids from less affluent backgrounds.
“With the reopening of gyms and swimming pools in recent months and with schools soon finishing for the summer, the timing is good. I am sure the uptake will be high, and this will ultimately lead to long-term health benefits and social outcomes for the city.”
Regional Director of GLL Gareth Kirk said: “This is a fantastic investment for school children right across Belfast. GLL is thrilled to be able to offer this as part of our commitment to engage with local communities and welcome more people into our centres.
“With leisure back open for business and new state-of-the-art facilities at Andersonstown and Lisnasharragh up and running, the ‘Pay and Play’ membership will give children the opportunity to use our incredible new centres and really benefit from transformed leisure provision across the city.
“Though children under five can currently swim for free at any of the centres across Belfast, the ‘Pay and Play’ cards make having fun and keeping active even more affordable. Our centres are aimed at people of all ages and abilities, however giving more children the chance to enjoy physical exercise is a top priority for GLL.”
Over 65,000 children are eligible to register for the cards, which can be used all year round. Social enterprise GLL, who operate Belfast leisure centres on behalf of Belfast City Council, is advising any Belfast school children without an address in the city to register using the postcode of their school.
All eligible school children can sign up for their card on the Better website and collect their cards at their local Better leisure centre.
Cathedral Quarter BID Celebrates Success Of Street Beat Police Presence In Area
An initiative that saw additional dedicated police officers patrolling Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter has been welcomed as a proven success story by Destination CQ’s manager Damien Corr.
The Ballot for the continuation of the Cathedral Quarter Business Improvement District (BID) is currently open until September 22. In an independent survey carried out in advance of the ballot, the Street Beat (#streetbeat) programme was seen as one of the key projects that adds value for businesses and organisations in the area, over 90% of respondents prioritised it for inclusion in the Business Plan for the next 5 years.
The StreetBeat officers are paid for by the BID and are additional to the normal policing provided by PSNI. The initiative was a direct response to local business owners’ concerns regarding antisocial activity within the areas.
BID manager Damien Corr said: “As the businesses are paying for the service, it was essential that they felt in ‘control’, accordingly the officers have a designated phone which our Cathedral Quarter businesses can call direct 07787432635. This ability to bypass the general PSNI Switchboard is key to a more effective localised response.”
The officers patrol the area on foot and in their distinctive CQ street beat branded vehicle, dealing with anti-social behaviour and criminal activity. They also visit premises offering practical security and personnel safety advice and equipment.
StreetBeat PSNI officer Michael Gillies added: “Being given the time and support both by the BID and PSNI management, I have been allowed to focus my work specifically within the Cathedral Quarter and its needs.
“This has helped to strengthen relationships already made with businesses and also to forge new ones. It’s back to basics Neighbourhood policing, only this time the neighbourhood is my local business community”.
However, the future of the scheme in the Cathedral Quarter relies on a ‘yes’ vote for a new five-year term for the Business Improvement District organisation Destination CQ.
With ballot papers already issued and voting by post closing on September 22, Mr Corr is keen to remind voters of what could be lost without their votes.
“The BID levy payers have told us that they really appreciate the work done by our Street Beat officers who, between them, have provided 2080 extra policing hours targeted patrolling,” he said.
“They were particularly effective over lockdown when lots of properties were left unattended. Our officers continued to patrol, checking on closed business premises and providing assurance and practical assistance to those who continued to work.
“It is a simple reality, that unless we get a yes vote in the ballot, aloof this additional targeted policing will be lost to Cathedral Quarter.”
Sorcha Woolsy, Operations Director of Beannchor with a number of businesses in the BID area said the BID has carried out a number of projects that have impacted the Beannchor suite of businesses.
“The one that really stands out to me is the provision of the City Centre Beat Officers,” she added.
“It’s a really good example of an initiative that a BID can provide that an individual business could not on their own.
“For me, it is imperative to vote yes on the re-ballot of the BID. The collective energy and brainpower and money of a group of businesses all pulling in the same direction for the betterment of this area will inevitably gain better results than individual businesses doing little bits and pieces on their own.”
For more information on the work of Destination CQ and Street Beat go to cathedralquarterbelfast.com or contact Damien Corr on 02890 314 011.
CQ BID Celebrates Five Years Of Being Voice For All In Cathedral Quarter
Cathedral Quarter Business Improvement District, Destination CQ, has for five years been the collective voice for every business in the area, lobbying and consulting with local and regional government and government agencies.
Destination CQ Manager, Damien Corr said the ability to go to these organisations and speak for everyone in the Cathedral Quarter, Smithfield and Union, is one that can’t go unnoticed.
“We are involved in most stakeholder groups in the city and that’s something that our levy payers don’t see a lot of,” he explained.
“It takes up a lot of our time but it’s very worthwhile.
“The ability to lobby for individual businesses, or for the entire area, direct to departments is important, and we work away on issues until we are successful or reach an acceptable compromise.”
The pressures of the pandemic, shop closures and the complete halt to tourism have affected the economy as a whole but it also had a significant effect on the Cathedral Quarter. This inner-city neighbourhood, characterised by arts, culture, restaurants, entertainment and independent shops relies on tourists and visitors to survive.
Over the past five years, Destination CQ has represented business interests at City Reopening Stakeholder Group, City Centre Anti-Social Behaviour Action Group and the Small Business Forum.
At present there is a ballot to continue the BID’s work for a further five years and voting Yes to the BID means local businesses can present a unified front and have a collective voice when engaging with the various stakeholders, either local government or assembly level.
When asked about the importance of banding together to present a collective voice, Sorcha Wolsey, Operations Director for the Beannchor Group and Destination CQ BID Board member said it was important that businesses come together.
“The collective energy, brainpower and money of a group of businesses all pulling in the same direction for the betterment of this area will inevitably gain better results than individual businesses doing little bits and pieces on their own,” she said.
The business improvement district has been actively championing the area, partnering with promotional activities such as the government’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme to help restaurants in the area recover from the effects of the pandemic.
There have been numerous BID led initiatives that greatly benefited businesses in the neighbourhood. Culture Night and Restaurant Week are just some examples of the projects that make CQ a vibrant place to do business.
Board member and Director of Quigg Golden, Gavin Hendrie said Cathedral Quarter needed a body to explain the issues and promote the area.
“We need a champion for the area,” he explained. “We need the BID to help advertise the CQ as a place to come, to maintain the sense of vibrancy that we’ve known in the past and perhaps lost in the last 18 months.”
Supporting local businesses remains one of the three pillars the Business Improvement District plans to focus on in term two. Collective advocacy is still a priority with creating a strong alliance among stakeholders and ensuring BID members’ voice is heard in key city-wide discussions.
Les Hume, Vice-Chair of CQ BID explained why it is crucial to be represented as a collective:
“By being part of a collective we can present a reasoned, well thought through debate, we can actually bring our concerns and our troubles to the people who make the key decisions,” he said.
“I think that in the next five years we’re going to have even greater challenges as we try to build Belfast back better.
“To vote yes for this BID process means that your voice can be heard, along with mine hopefully. Together we’ll make Belfast better.
“Individually we will struggle. That’s what I think is good about a Business Improvement District, so please do consider voting yes.”
For more information on how the work of Destination CQ BID can benefit your business go to cathedralquarterbelfast.com or contact Damien Corr on 02890 314 011.