£1.7m plan to pump life back into city's heart
A ski slope, ferris wheel and a mini festival have been announced in a programme of events aimed at helping Belfast recover following the Primark fire.
Belfast City Council has announced details of a £1.69 million package aimed at attracting people into the city centre - including the possible extension of the Christmas market at City Hall, subject to interest from traders.
The council is also seeking an urgent meeting with Secretary of State Karen Bradley and Civil Service head David Sterling to discuss financial support for the package as well as the long-term recovery of city centre trade.
Earlier this week it emerged that the blaze that devastated Bank Buildings has caused a 30% drop in footfall.
The historic building, which was home to Primark, was left a charred shell after the inferno that started on August 28 and took several days to be extinguished.
A safety cordon has been placed around the perimeter leaving 14 businesses unable to trade.
Restrictions are expected to be in place until after Christmas, the council has said.
Yesterday it announced a programme of events aimed at helping the city to recover by drawing more shoppers in, including the ski slope and ferris wheel, as well as amusements and family zones.
It is also investing in outdoor seating and tables, enhanced street lighting and street art to improve the area while work on Bank Buildings continues.
The main programme of larger events starts on October 26 with the Castle Street fair. Events to follow will include Halloween family tours and activity, the Monster Mash, the Red Bull F1 Showdown and Eddie Irvine Racing, a mini Mela multicultural festival, a mini Festival of Fools and a Victorian fair.
The opening of the city-wide infrastructure attractions will be on November 18, the day of the Christmas lights switch-on.
Jim Rodgers, chairman of the strategic policy and resources committee, said it wants to see the city centre bustling with shoppers.
"We know that businesses around the cordon are really suffering from a drop in footfall," he said.
"This programme of activity will enhance what Belfast has to offer and help to bring people into the city centre."