Belfast Telegraph

Council drawing up action plan to revitalise Belfast city centre

Belfast city centre
Belfast city centre
Adrian Rutherford

By Adrian Rutherford

Belfast councillors have agreed to bring forward a plan to address challenges facing the city's retail sector.

The decision was taken at a meeting of the council's city growth and regeneration committee on Wednesday night.

At the meeting members were updated regarding the findings of a retail analysis of Belfast city centre.

It was commissioned to identify key challenges and to help inform an approach to strengthen the economic, social and physical regeneration of the city centre.

Among the recommendations was for the council to explore opportunities to drive additional footfall and spend by attracting more visitors to the city on a Sunday.

The committee agreed to carry out an engagement and consultation exercise on how this could be achieved.

Committee chair Deirdre Hargey said: "The retail sector is crucial to Belfast's physical and economic development and we want Belfast to have a competitive retail offer and shopping experience that is unmatched anywhere else in the north.

"It was important to do our homework first. By carrying out this comprehensive retail analysis, we have been able to pinpoint some important factors which will help shape our approach to creating a dynamic and experiential destination for shoppers."

The analysis, which was developed in conjunction with the Belfast Chamber, benchmarked Belfast against a number of comparable cities.

It also took into account the impact of online shopping on the high street, not just in Belfast but across all UK cities.

Chief executive of Belfast Chamber Simon Hamilton said: "Belfast Chamber is committed to working collaboratively with city partners and the council on the outworkings of recommendations of the retail analysis.

"The city centre and the retail sector is critical to the city's economy.

"We need to confidently position ourselves, focusing on our strengths and driving forward the opportunities identified within the retail analysis to ensure the sustainability of Belfast's offering."

The findings of the study highlight the potential of Belfast's retail sector being the driving force for city centre performance and development, with suggestions on how Belfast can improve the relevance and breadth of its current retail offer.

Some of the positive factors identified in the analysis include the strong presence of independent retail, tourism potential, growing office and working space development and the increasing demand for city centre living.

Ms Hargey added: "It's no secret that the high street is facing challenges.

"Together with our city partners and stakeholders, we are focused now on revitalising our city centre and it's imperative that we take this opportunity to embrace future trends, taking into account all the functions of a city centre.

"As well as looking at our retail offer, we need to consider our leisure and cultural offer, family spaces, city centre living and tourism development.

"Creating a mixed-use economy is crucial to Belfast's future resilience and will encourage sustainability."

The committee's decision is subject to the ratification of the full council when it meets next month.

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