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Belfast City Hall must cut back on number of light shows or pay £20k upgrade

By Rebecca Black

Published 20/05/2016

Belfast City Hall was illuminated green and white to celebrate boxer Carl Frampton’s world title win
Belfast City Hall was illuminated green and white to celebrate boxer Carl Frampton’s world title win

Belfast City Council may cut down the number of times City Hall is lit up, it can be revealed.

The Illuminate programme of LED coloured lights around City Hall was set up in 2013.

It helps reduce energy costs and proved a hit when the building is lit up in different colours.

However, it could cost the council £20,000 to upgrade the system if special requests are not limited.

There are 25 established dates each year when the building appears in a specific colour.

It will appear in maroon tonight for the Lord Mayor's civic charity event for the Simon Community, green for St Patrick's day, orange and purple for Orangefest, blue for World Autism Day and red for Remembrance Sunday.

But additional requests can also be made, such as in March when City Hall was lit in the colours of the Belgian flag following the terror attacks in Brussels.

Green and white lights were used in February for boxer Carl Frampton's homecoming and green again in March for World Down's Syndrome Day.

But council officials say the programme is now a victim of its own success - they have received more than 180 requests.

The council's Strategic Policy and Resources committee will today discuss if criteria should be set for requests to light up City Hall, or whether to continue the practice of creating special lighting for particular occasions.

Council minutes say the LED system has been "very successful thus far". It has both secured and sustained a 70% reduction in energy consumption and also allowed the council to mark significant dates, occasions or achievements using the bespoke lighting.

However, the minutes warn that when the lighting is used too frequently the overall impact is "diminished as the effect becomes passé, particularly when the rationale for the coloured effect is not clearly communicated by the promoting organisation".

The minutes also note a "virtually inexhaustible supply of deserving organisations and causes in our society who may seek to mark their own particular function, group or cause using the system, and this raises the prospect of having to make very difficult choices in deciding which to facilitate and which to reject".

They reveal that 182 requests have been received - in addition to the agreed list of recognised days - since the system went live in 2013. Not all were approved, although the number that were is now causing "increasing operational problems" in terms of overtime costs.

The minutes say the system's memory is full so all new scenes must be manually created and switched on and off by hand. An upgrade could cost up to £20,000 if requests are not limited.

Members today will be asked to vote to either "endorse the view that no requests in respect of medical conditions or diseases etc will be considered (other than those nominated by the Lord Mayor, Deputy Lord Mayor of High Sheriff), or create a new criterion which would permit requests in respect of medical conditions or diseases".

The second option would see associated costs of £20,000 initially and an estimated £8,000 per annum afterwards.

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