New business designation to boost Cathedral Quarter
Belfast's Cathedral Quarter has become the city's first business improvement district - with dozens of firms backing the campaign to grow the area.
A business improvement district (BID) is an area where legislation allows both firms and the public sector to vote on various improvements.
The new Destination CQ received support from 84% of businesses in the Cathedral Quarter area - which is one of Belfast's thriving nightspots, featuring a plethora of bars and restaurants.
The scheme came about through the work of around 20 companies over a year.
"This is a significant achievement for us, and at the same time, a move in a new direction for everyone in the BID area," said Paul McErlean, chairman of the district.
"All the hard work and effort has paid off and we are delighted to have had the support of our colleagues and neighbours in Smithfield and Union, Laganside and Cathedral Quarter."
Last summer, Ballymena town centre became the first part of Northern Ireland to introduce a business improvement district.
The legislation to allow for the creation of the business improvement areas was approved by Stormont in mid-2014, and several other areas are also preparing to seek approval from the business ratepayers within their defined area.
Les Hume, from Dawsons Music on Royal Avenue, who is a member of the new Destination CQ group, set up to drive the district forward, said it will "help make the area an even more attractive place to live, work, play, shop and do business".
Improvements in the area will be funded by an annual levy of 1.5% on the rateable value of the businesses and organisations.
Patricia Freedman, director of the Cathedral Quarter Trust, said the scheme had been possible thanks to support from the Department of Social Development, Tourism NI, Belfast City Council, as well as dozens of local businesses.