Belfast Telegraph

Call for Belfast council to suspend enforcement over 'slap in the face' Christmas decoration ban

Ten Square hotel in Belfast City centre with the Banner on the listed building wishing people a happy Christmas, Belfast city council have asked it to be removed. Photo by Peter Morrison
Ten Square hotel in Belfast City centre with the Banner on the listed building wishing people a happy Christmas, Belfast city council have asked it to be removed. Photo by Peter Morrison
Mark Edwards

By Mark Edwards

Belfast City Council's threat to fine a hotel over a festive banner is a "slap in the face" for businesses in the city leading up to Christmas, two trade body chiefs have said.

The comments come after the Ten Square Hotel  was sanctioned by Belfast City Council's planning department over its Coca-Cola Happy Holiday banners. It said they were “unauthorised,” breached planning regulations and it had until Thursday to bring them down.

Hospitality Ulster and Retail NI have demanded the council suspend their enforcement action on several of its members using festive banners and promotional boards throughout the city, branding the move a "slap in the face" to businesses leading up to the busy festive period.

In a joint statement, Colin Neill, Chief Executive of Hospitality Ulster and Glyn Roberts, Chief Executive of Retail NI said: "This is a very heavy-handed approach to an issue, which in reality, causes no harm.

“What makes this action worse, is that fact that it is being carried out during what should be a busier period for Belfast city centre - Christmas.

"For many of our members this is the time when they can make some money to help sustain them through the early months of the new year as they struggle to pay their exorbitant rates and bills, when fewer people are spending and going out.”

Mr Neill and Mr Roberts called on the council to resolve the issue through the Belfast city centre reference group.

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"A solution that applies the law equally to all, whilst providing a way that small businesses can carry out promotional activity in a cost-effective way. It’s time to give traders and owners who work hard for the city a break.”

Ten Square faces a £2,500 fine if it does not take down the banner.

However, the hotel's management were defiant, telling the Belfast Telegraph if it costs the business £2,500 “to wish the people of Belfast Happy Christmas, then so be it”.

Stephen Carson, group operations director of the Loughview Leisure Group, which owns the hotel, said he will be willing to donate the money to a homeless charity rather than pay the council.

A Belfast City Council spokesperson said it was taken action due to an unauthorised advertisement on a listed building.

The council is yet to respond to the criticism from Hospitality Ulster and Retail NI.

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