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By Linda Stewart

Renovation work to protect the Belfast dock where The Titanic was fitted out will help to create a tourist attraction which will bring thousands of visitors to Belfast.

The Department of the Environment is shelling out £1.5m to make sure the colossal Thompson graving dock is protected from the threat of flooding — the biggest sum ever spent by the DoE on supporting a scheduled historic monument.

The work involves the construction of a permanent structure in the style of a gate, outside the original dock gate. When completed, this new gate will sit in the ‘Titanic slot’, an outer position in which the original gate would have been positioned to accommodate the length of the vessel.

Environment Minister Alex Attwood said: “Built heritage, whether it be the Walls of Derry or the industrial heritage at Harland & Wolff or all the other wonderful buildings we have, is part of the appeal of Northern Ireland. If we are to grow our tourism industry to £1bn a year and create 10,000 new jobs very quickly, we have to invest in our built heritage.

“Given that we’re weeks from opening the Titanic signature project, the more we enhance the Titanic experience, the better we can be in terms of growing tourism and creating jobs. Those who come to see our built heritage stay twice as long and spend twice as much — that is a big return on a big opportunity.”

Meanwhile, a temporary coffer dam is being constructed to provide a dry working area around the original gate and Titanic slot, and to allow the construction of the permanent structure that will safeguard the dock.

The steel dock gate is 104 years old and measures 150ft at its widest point.

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