Storm Ali caused further damage to building - no quick fix council repeats
Belfast City Council has committed £1.25million for businesses hit by the Primark Bank Buildings fire as it was revealed the condition of the building further deteriorated in this week's storm.
The devastating blaze in the heart of the city has forced 14 businesses to shut within the safety exclusion zone as work continues on determining what to do with the gutted shell of the building.
The council estimates the exclusion zone will be in place for at least four months. The building remains in an "extremely dangerous state and is structurally unsound," the council said.
This week's Storm Ali led to further damage to the property with a steel beam falling and loose debris blown off the building. The beam landed within the safety cordon.
The debris fell within the cordon and the cordon remains intact with the council saying the greatest concerns are around the stability of the chimneys and clock tower and the upper floor.
The council's position remains there is "no quick fix" as experts continue to examine the building which has proven difficult "given the precarious nature/level of instability of the building"
"This continues to be a complex engineering challenge no matter which solution is agreed. The focus remains on getting a final solution agreed and getting our city centre back to normal as soon as is physically possible," the council said.
The council is continuing to monitor the economic impact the continued closure of the area is having and plans to appeal to central government for more support.
On Friday members of Belfast City Council’s Strategic Policy and Resources Committee agreed that they will inject more resource into supplementing the recovery of the city centre.
It estimates its overall spend to support businesses to attract people into the city will be in the region of £1.25m - that's on top of the £500,000 donated by Primark.
In relation to this contribution, councillors also agreed that a cash flow support package for the worst affected businesses would be developed over the next two weeks.
Alderman Jim Rodgers, chair of the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee, said: “The scale of this disaster has had an immediate and profound impact on Belfast city centre and has left us facing huge challenges in the weeks and months ahead.
"We are determined as a council to lead this recovery operation and offer our business community all the support it needs to get back to business as usual, and to support those traders who, while outside the cordon, are also suffering a reduction in footfall and sales.
“Each of the businesses has different needs and priorities. It is vital that we work together to deliver the best support programme possible, and ensure Belfast’s economic resilience in the longer term. This will not be a short term fix but support investment in regeneration of the city.”
The city recovery investment programme put in place by Belfast City Council is planned to run into 2019, focusing towards Christmas trading and beyond.
The Programme is providing targeted support for businesses severely affected. It will invest in the city to improve connection and movement and make key streets and thoroughfares attractive. The programme will fund opportunities and animations to encourage people to those streets around the building - so that closed off areas created by the cordon are attractive destinations.
Belfast City Council is monitoring and measuring the impact of the ‘yellow dot trail’ and wayfinding signage which was introduced in immediate response to the cordon.
This work will inform improvements and help the council support businesses by driving footfall, with street animation, transport and retail offers, and city dressing all part of plans. The council is also developing ways to help people find their way around the city to the unique and real mix of shops that we have.
Alderman Rodgers added: “All parties have given a commitment today to move as quickly as possible in the decision-making process to ensure there is no delay which could jeopardise or hinder the city’s economic recovery.
"We recognise the necessary urgency for businesses and traders, and continue to work proactively with all our partners to restore the city to the very vibrant place that it is. We will be meeting again with all of the businesses affected in the coming days to help decide what will drive footfall in their particular area, between now and Christmas.
“This will require a strategic approach by council and its city partners, and we will be looking at how we might take this opportunity to reimagine our city centre and look to other cities for best practice and ideas for how we might approach regenerating this part of our city centre.”
The council added: "Belfast City Council is working closely with Primark and relevant statutory agencies under the terms of the Planning Act and other legislation such as building control which makes provision for works to listed buildings. Council is ready to progress any relevant applications when a decision is taken by Primark regarding the future of the building."