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Coronavirus Northern Ireland: Belfast council awards £690k Covid funding as Primark announces extended reopening


Belfast City Council has awarded £690,000 to help business clusters and community groups as part of Covid recovery plans.

The initiative comes ahead of the reopening of retail across Northern Ireland on Friday, with major chains like Primark preparing to welcome customers back through its doors. They budget clothing retailer has announced extended reopening in a bid to try and ease the numbers heading to its stores. Last December there was chaotic scenes at one store as thousands flocked to it after lockdown.

The council money assigned to 32 projects is intended to “reimagine and revamp” city spaces, with the funding provided by the Department for Communities’ Covid-19 recovery programme.

The diverse range of  projects schemes include introducing “parklets”, shop front and environmental improvements.

Councillor David Brooks, Chair of Belfast City Council’s City Growth and Regeneration Committee, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has forced us all to rethink how we use our city’s spaces and places and given us a renewed impetus to make our city more vibrant, diverse, and inclusive. We knew that our businesses and community groups would come up with innovative proposals to help increase footfall and boost spend in local businesses and we’re very much looking forward to seeing these projects come to fruition, because they’ll help our communities and our city recover from the effects of the pandemic.”

The scheme gave groups and partnerships across Belfast the chance to apply for grants worth £10,000 – £25,000 to enhance local areas while helping business and community groups to reopen safely.

A number of parklets are to be created, converting areas of land to encourage people to socialise safely in pleasant surroundings.

Business clusters are to carry out shopfront improvements and environmental enhancements to improve the appearance of their businesses and outside space.

Environmental projects will include a community farm, community gardens, sensory gardens as well as the upgrading of an outdoor installation and a mural project. 

Meanwhile, Primark is one of the many local outlets gearing up for the long-awaited return of customers this Friday.

In a statement, the business said that safety remained its top priority and promised that employees and customers could return with confidence.

This will include extra security and dedicated employee marshals on hand to manage customers queues outsides stores, as well as extensive safety measures in store.

A strict social distancing protocol will be in place, limits on customers allowed inside, the required use of face coverings as well as the use of perspex screens and cubicles at till points.

Opening hours have also been extended across all nine Primark stores in Northern Ireland to help reduce queues.

Primark chief executive, Paul Marchant, said: “We can’t wait to welcome back our customers in Northern Ireland, we’ve seen a great response to our re-opening by our customers in England and Wales.

"Safety remains at the front of our minds. We have extended opening hours in our stores in Northern Ireland to help meet demand safely but we’re also asking our customers for their support in adhering to social distancing and safety measures, both while queuing outside and in-store, to help maintain a safe and enjoyable shopping experience for all.”

The retailer is advising customers to check local store opening times.

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