Primark fire can help transform Belfast, Retail NI chief claims
Glyn Roberts has marked the first anniversary of the Bank Buildings blaze by calling for a bold new vision in the city centre.
The Belfast Primark fire should help produce a radical new vision for a city open to independent traders, a business leader said.
An accidental blaze at the historic city centre Bank Buildings burned for days after starting on August 28 last year.
Parts of the city centre were closed off for months, with major disruption to businesses in the area.
Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts said: “As we mark the first anniversary of the Primark fire, the city needs to move forward and put this tragedy behind them. We need a bold, radical and new vision for the city.
“Retail NI is very ambitious for Belfast and we believe that a 21st century city centre can be created with a dynamic retail and hospitality offer.
“It also needs to be a fun place for families to visit and enjoy.”
A cordon installed around Bank Buildings meant 14 businesses close to the scene were unable to trade for months.
Mr Roberts said he wanted to create the conditions so more independent retailers could open in the city centre to offer something “different and distinctive” to consumers.
He said Retail NI was actively engaging with the developers of Tribeca, Sirocco and other new city centre investments to ensure locations for independent retailers were included in their planning applications.
More than 300 firefighters worked over days to extinguish the Primark blaze, stop fire spreading to adjacent buildings and prevent loss of life or injury.
The response protected the new 30,000 sq ft rear section of Bank Buildings, with Primark opening for business before Christmas last year.
Fire service area commander Aidan Jennings said: “Like many people, August 28 and the four days that followed will remain with me forever.
“I will remember this incident for the expertise, resilience and dedication of firefighters and staff right across NIFRS as well as the outpouring of kindness, generosity and public–spiritedness.
“This underpinned and helped reinforce our operational response to this incident.
“As ever the resilience of the people of Belfast was matched by the action and support they offered.”
We have undertaken a lot of work in recent months to get the message out there that Belfast is well and truly open for business Lord Mayor John Finucane
At the height of the blaze, more than 100 firefighters and 14 appliances were involved. Firefighters from as far away as Armagh and Kilrea responded.
Mr Jennings added: “The size, scope and intensity of this fire provided many challenges and I can vividly recall that iconic image of the clock in Bank Buildings burning and the impact that had on our personnel working so hard to save the building.”
Firefighters repeatedly had to be temporarily withdrawn from internal firefighting operations within the building to prevent injury or loss of life due to escalating fire conditions and collapsing structure.
Mr Jennings said tried and tested response plans played a significant part in resolving the incident.
Afterwards, Belfast City Council launched a special marketing plan designed to help the city’s traders get back on their feet.
Lord Mayor John Finucane said: “I’m pleased that our city centre is largely reopened again and we have undertaken a lot of work in recent months with our city stakeholders and partners to get the message out there that Belfast is well and truly open for business – but we can’t take our foot off the pedal.”