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Googling the changes in Belfast as images show cityscape transformation in 15 years

Online maps show huge differences over 15 years

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2020: Clarendon Dock, Belfast

2020: Clarendon Dock, Belfast

2005: Clarendon Dock, Belfast

2005: Clarendon Dock, Belfast

2020: Belfast City Centre

2020: Belfast City Centre

2005: Belfast City Centre

2005: Belfast City Centre

2005: The old Ravenhill

2005: The old Ravenhill

2020: Kingspan stadium

2020: Kingspan stadium

2020: Clarendon Dock, Belfast

These are the images which show the changing face of Belfast.

The dramatic alterations to the skyline are revealed in images taken at the same locations in 2005 and 2020 and released by Google Maps, which celebrates turning 15 today.

Over the decade-and-a-half, the industrial and shipbuilding legacy that once dominated the space within the city centre has gradually been stripped away, as commercial and tourism industries shape the planning and development of Belfast.

While some of the most dramatic changes over the years have been the development of the docks in the city, there have also been significant alterations to the Cathedral Quarter, Victoria Square and the Ulster University site among others.

Clare Mulholland is a professor at the Queen's University School of Natural and Built Environment. She explained that the pace of change in such a short period of time can be traced to a number of factors including the de-industrialisation of the city and the legacy of the Troubles.

"Since the Good Friday Agreement and in the last 15 to 20 years there has been huge changes in the city, but obviously the urban environment particularly," she explained.

"The city centre has become a shared space. The best comparison for the development of Belfast would maybe best be to somewhere like Sheffield and Bristol.

"Ours was more pronounced though because it was people fleeing the city and living elsewhere. The urban environment of Belfast changed because of the Troubles.

"The regeneration of the Cathedral Quarter changed what was previously a very local area into a vibrant part of the city.

"What can happen with those larger scale developments is that they have great potential to act as a catalyst in the community."

While bright new buildings and hotels have popped up, Professor Mulholland does strike a cautionary note about the importance of adequate connection and ensuring Belfast meets future challenges, particularly around climate change.

Going forward, she believes we should have an eye on how to ensure the city is "sustainable".

"It depends on careful city planning to make sure the infrastructure is there," she added. "There has to be a focus on building a connected city. One that is accessible, particularly by walking and cycling routes.

"One thing which could be really exciting for Belfast is Stormont declaring a climate emergency, which creates a focus on what is good for this city.

"I am a big believer that Belfast could be one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

"It is a really beautiful size in terms of everything being in walking distance. It has that potential to harness."

Belfast Telegraph