Belfast Telegraph

Working-class communities 'missed out on Titanic Quarter dividend'

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

Working-class communities have missed out on the dividend from development at Titanic Quarter, it has been claimed.

During a full meeting of Belfast City Council it was revealed that the construction of the £90m Titanic Belfast tourist attraction — to which the council contributed £10m — and regeneration of the wider Titanic Quarter area had failed to meet social responsibility requirements in planning permission contracts.

A Titanic memorandum of understanding (MoU) drawn up between the Titanic Foundation, the council and contractors, set out targets to generate 25 apprenticeships, recruit 15 long-term unemployed and provide social housing.

The aims were never met, however, because of ‘loose’ or ‘ambiguous’ definitions in the MoU.

During the council meeting, representatives from across the political spectrum warned that lessons must be learned from the failures.

“We can do an awful lot better,” said Sinn Fein’s Conor Maskey.

“We have still to deliver on an investment programme, we have high ambitions and we should learn lessons of what went wrong in Titanic Quarter, learn lessons for other big projects being delivered. The memorandum of understanding was poorly written and left open ambiguities.”

Dr John Kyle of the PUP added: “There are important lessons that we need to learn. In terms of apprenticeships, we failed to meet our target or achieve objectives.

“There should be social affordable housing.

“If we are concerned for the welfare of Belfast we need to see the importance of pepper-potting social housing through new developments.”

The DUP’s Christopher Stalford said steps should be taken to ensure that Titanic Quarter did not become an area of ‘haves and have nots’.

“If the Titanic Quarter becomes a gated community it will have failed,” he said.

“It cannot sit in isolation from the community in which it is being built.

“There are other developments in other parts of Belfast that people can point to where new, executive accommodation was put up.

“For example, in Sandy Row, a posh block of apartments was put up.

The people that live in them and people in Sandy Row do not know each other. It created segregation.

“Obviously we do not want that to happen in Titanic Quarter. We want to ensure that this development spreads the benefits into east Belfast.

“Those who are from the east of the city know the depth of |the deprivation in places like Pitt Park, Short Strand... as a consequence of decline in the heavy industry.

“These people need to feel the benefit of that. The Titanic Signature Building can only be the start.”

Last month, the Belfast Telegraph revealed how community groups, business owners and church leaders in the east of the city were concerned that the thousands of visitors to the Signature Building were leaving without exploring and spending time in ‘real east Belfast’.

DUP councillor in east Belfast Gavin Robinson said: “It is important that the benefits can trickle down to the host communities...

“It is important that we draw people from the shiny new building to the real east Belfast,” said the DUP representative.

Background

The aims of the £97m Titanic Signature project were:

  • Community participation in the delivery of the project and the creation of a unique community space;
  • Telling Belfast’s proud story of industry;
  • The creation of an icon that will become a powerful image of modern Belfast;
  • Regeneration of former Queen’s Island shipyards.


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