Date: 04 Aug 2020
Belfast City Council and Executive Ministers have given their backing to an ambitious blueprint to explore a shared approach to creating a more attractive, accessible, safe and vibrant city centre.
The ‘Bolder Vision’ document - which follows a joint study by Belfast City Council, Department for Infrastructure and Department for Communities – outlines a progressive and wide-reaching vision to significantly reimagine Belfast city centre with the focus moving to a greener, walkable and connected core that is more people and family-focussed.
Lord Mayor Alderman Frank McCoubrey said: “A ‘Bolder Vision’ looks at ways of reimagining the city’s heart and key connections to local communities, where streets and open spaces are designed to meet the changing needs of a diverse range of users - as well as supporting existing businesses and encouraging inclusive growth. “As the city begins its recovery post-Covid, and with the challenges that will remain in the coming months as we continue to deal with the current pandemic, there is renewed emphasis on how we use our city centre spaces safely, allowing for social distancing.
“But even before this pandemic, cities across the UK and Europe have been examining how they diversify their city centres to ensure long term resilience and well-being for all, as we respond to the urgent need to create a more sustainable, climate-resilient city to address issues around flooding, congestion and air quality.”
Alderman McCoubrey added: “This is a bold vision, and it is not without its challenges, but we need to show collective leadership if we are to deliver the objectives of the Belfast Agenda, while also supporting businesses and inclusive growth, and creating an attractive, accessible and vibrant city centre.
“That means looking at every user’s needs, and sometimes those are competing needs; so it’s absolutely vital that we consider the findings of this study and start to develop a comprehensive and informed consultation process to establish the requirements of our residents and businesses, and to drive transformation to create a progressive, forward thinking city.
“I’m pleased that there has already been some progress in this area with a number of trials and pilot projects already in motion, and it is fantastic to have the support of the Infrastructure Minister and Communities Minister to take forward our ‘Bolder Vision’ for the city.”
Minister for Infrastructure, Nichola Mallon has said: “My department is committed to supporting local communities and councils across Northern Ireland to achieve a Green Recovery creating city and town centres which are cleaner, healthier, and more attractive places for people to live and work and rest. A Bolder Belfast brings an exciting vision which combines elements of active travel, connectivity, place-making and investing in our waterways and green spaces to show how we can mirror the urban revolutions we are seeing in cities across the world.
Minister Mallon added: “This work on improving connectivity in Belfast was always important. But it has taken on a new relevance and urgency as departments and the Council are planning how they will work together with all civic stakeholders to recover from COVID-19 and build a cleaner, greener, stronger and more resilient city. “It is increasingly imperative that we collaborate to agree how we can transform the heart of Belfast to create sustainable, attractive, liveable places where people and businesses thrive. I believe that this Vision is a blueprint for moving forward which will support many mechanisms of Green Recovery that we are currently exploring and already starting to deliver.”
Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilín said: “Our aspirations for the City Centre predate coronavirus and reflects the changes in the way people shop and the way that communities want to use their town and city centres. My Department is committed to supporting the adaption to these changes and I endorse the ‘Bolder Vision’ published today as a significant step towards that goal. The ‘Bolder Vision’ will be used to inform the projects we are taking forward in the city centre and I look forward to working with city partners as we take the next steps in this joint venture.
“Whilst our aims remains one of encouraging vibrant and authentic town centres where people live, shop, use services, and spend their leisure time, there is no denying that the City Centre businesses have been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus crisis and the road to recovery presents a particular challenge that we must address. My Department continues to support them through this difficult time and my recent announcement of an investment of over £1.3m in Belfast City centre as part of the £11m Capital Covid-19 Recovery Revitalisation Scheme is just one example of how I am supporting towns and city centres in their economic recovery from the impacts of Covid-19.”
The vision sets out four key goals - by 2035 Belfast will be:
a healthy, shared, vibrant and sustainable environment, where people of all ages will choose to live, work and visit;
a city that prioritises walking, cycling and public transport;
lively and safe with green streets that celebrate our built heritage with new leisure spaces and a variety of cultural activities;
a city with barriers to movement removed, ensuring that communities across the city are well connected to the city core with the River Lagan a key focus with multiple crossing points and activities along its banks.
The next phase of the joint work with DfI and DfC will be to develop an action plan and delivery options which will help inform further discussions with key city partners and stakeholders before going out to public consultation later this year.