Popular attraction hasn’t been operational for months and repairs would cost £130k
Fountains at Belfast’s Custom House Square are to be decommissioned as a Stormont department believes the cost of repairing them is just money down the drain, according to a councillor.
The ground-based fountains have been a fixture in the city for years, with children frequently running through the water streams during our rare spells of good weather.
Custom House Square has been revamped in recent years as a popular concert venue.
However, the fountains, which shoot jets of water about three feet into the air, have been in place long before the likes of Stereophonics or Madness graced the stage.
The fountains have not been operational for several months, and it has now emerged that the Department for Communities (DfC), which is responsible for repairs, has no plans to do this due to the exorbitant cost.
It is understood it would cost upwards of £130,000 to fix the fountains.
Custom House Square underwent a transformation, including the installation of the water feature, in 2007.
It is made up of 52 computer-controlled, high-pressure jets which discharge water to a set programme. The discharged water is collected by a sustainable drainage system that holds it in an underground storage tank.
Belfast SDLP councillor Carl Whyte was made aware of the situation via correspondence with the DfC.
He said that, while he understands the high cost of fixing the fountains, he believes they should be maintained due to their popularity.
“I was deeply disappointed to learn that there are currently no plans to repair the water fountains at Custom House Square,” he said.
“While I understand the repair work would cost a considerable amount, I would also point out that this is a key space in our city centre that has been utilised in television and online advertisements showcasing the best Belfast has to offer.
“This is also an important space for families and tourists. It is one of the few areas in the city centre that you can take children to enjoy themselves and their permanent loss would be a real blow to this area.
“We need to look at ways we can improve the experience for people visiting Belfast city centre and not do away with the positive attractions currently in place.
“Custom House Square is an extremely popular space and attracts major events and acts from across the world.
“With huge sums generated by these popular events, the department should work with promoters and others to contribute the money needed to refurbish these fountains and keep this a space that we can all be proud of.
“It would be a real shame if we were to write off this significant investment that has brought joy to so many people.”
In a statement, the DfC said it has not taken a decision on whether to decommission the water feature.
“There is potential disruption to activities and planned events in the square that needs to be considered as paving needs to be lifted to repair. The department is considering all options,” a spokesperson said.
Concerns were previously raised by some residents in Belfast when there was a hosepipe ban, but the fountains were still running. Custom House Square is also home to another fountain — the Calder memorial fountain.
It is named after Francis Anderson Calder, one of Belfast’s most revered citizens during the Victorian era. Born in Edinburgh, he served during the Napoleonic Wars. On his retirement from active service, he relocated to Belfast.
He was one of the founding members of the Belfast Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 1836, the second oldest animal welfare charity in the world.
Following the society’s expansion in subsequent years, it was renamed the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
The memorial fountain was designed by George Smith, the Belfast Harbour commissioner’s chief engineer.
One side of the fountain is inscribed with the words: “Erected by Public Subscription.
“A memorial to the labours of Francis Anderson Calder, Commander, R.N.
“In the cause of humanity and to whom is mainly to be attributed the erection, between the years 1843 and 1855, of ten water troughs for the use of cattle in Belfast.
“‘A righteous man regarded the life of his beast’.”