Belfast Telegraph

Revealed: 90 Belfast businesses eligible for Primark Bank Buildings fire support fund

'Fair and simple process' will see cash in accounts 'within days'

Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

Belfast City Council has revealed details of a £500,000 support package for businesses hit by the Primark Bank Buildings fire saying 90 different city centre organisations are eligible to apply.

Businesses worst affected by the fire last August will be able to apply for funding to aid their financial recovery from today (Friday).

The council said the process was "simple and fair" and eligible businesses will have money in their accounts within days of applying.

Outlining the scheme Councillor Jim Rodgers said he realised there would be disappointment for those not eligible.

"We have had to introduce an eligibility scheme which will see the money go to those who need it most," he said.

The council also confirmed it had received an application from Primark to carry out work on the listed building. This is out for public consultation until October 22 and will be considered at the October 26 planning committee. 

It is hoped a pedestrian access could be restored between Donegall Place and Royal Avenue before Christmas.

Members of Belfast City Council’s Strategic Policy Resources Committee met on Friday morning and agreed details of the package which was donated by Primark.

The £500,000 from Primark was given on the understanding that it would provide direct support to affected small businesses and that the resources would be focused on local traders. The council has looked at a number of options and agreed the zone in which smaller businesses will be eligible to apply for support. 

Fourteen businesses inside a safety cordon have been forced to close while others have reported huge drops in trade. Those inside the cordon will receive more support.

Aerial views showing the aftermath of the fire in the Bank Buildings - Primark Belfast - August 29th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott)
Aerial views showing the aftermath of the fire in the Bank Buildings - Primark Belfast - August 29th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott)
Aerial views showing the aftermath of the fire in the Bank Buildings - Primark Belfast - August 29th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott)
Aerial views showing the aftermath of the fire in the Bank Buildings - Primark Belfast - August 29th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott)
Aerial views showing the aftermath of the fire in the Bank Buildings - Primark Belfast - August 29th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott)
Aerial views showing the aftermath of the fire in the Bank Buildings - Primark Belfast - August 29th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott)
Aerial views showing the aftermath of the fire in the Bank Buildings - Primark Belfast - August 29th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott)
Aerial views showing the aftermath of the fire in the Bank Buildings - Primark Belfast - August 29th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott)
Aerial views showing the aftermath of the fire in the Bank Buildings - Primark Belfast - August 29th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott)
Aerial views showing the aftermath of the fire in the Bank Buildings - Primark Belfast - August 29th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott)
Aerial views showing the aftermath of the fire in the Bank Buildings - Primark Belfast - August 29th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott)
Aerial view over Bank Buildings following Tuesdays fire. Photo by Gregory Weeks.
Photo by Gregory Weeks. Aerial view over Bank Buildings following Tuesdays fire..
Photo by Gregory Weeks. Aerial view over Bank Buildings following Tuesdays fire..
Aerial view over Bank Buildings following Tuesdays fire. Photo by Gregory Weeks.
Photo by Gregory Weeks. Aerial view over Bank Buildings following Tuesdays fire..
Photo by Gregory Weeks. Aerial view over Bank Buildings following Tuesdays fire..
Photo by Gregory Weeks. Aerial view over Bank Buildings following Tuesdays fire..
Photo by Gregory Weeks. Aerial view over Bank Buildings following Tuesdays fire..

The fund will be open for a six-week period until Monday November 19.

Criteria for access to the fund includes:

  • Independent retailers with less than 50 employees
  • Charities
  • Offices displaced by the fire
  • Single location franchises with less than 50 employees.

The council said: "Under this criteria, 90 businesses (in Castle Street, Castle Lane, Bank Square, Berry Street, King Street, Royal Avenue, Lower Garfield Street and Castle Court) have been identified as being eligible to apply for funding. This does not include any multi-national chain stores or multiple location franchisees."

A differential level of support will also be applied for businesses within the cordon and those outside the cordon. Businesses within the cordon will be allocated a more substantial level of support than those outside, given the increased level of impact on their business.

The levels include:

  • Independent retailers/charities inside the cordon - £19,000
  • Offices inside the cordon - £2,000
  • Affected independent / small businesses outside the cordon within the defined zone - £5,000

Council officials will be contacting eligible businesses to make them aware of the support package and guiding them through the application process. Council will process applications within days and if an applicant is deemed eligible, they will receive funds directly into their account.

Council is committed to leading the recovery operation for our city centre.

Alderman Jim Rodgers, Chair of Belfast City Council’s Strategic Policy and Resources Committee said: “We have tried to make this as fair and simple a process as possible.

"We know some traders may be disappointed that they don’t meet the eligibility criteria but we have had to introduce an eligibility scheme which will see the money go to those who need it most. We have also carried out extensive consultation with the businesses themselves over the last number of weeks, along with our city partners including Belfast City Centre Management, Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce, and Belfast One.

“As well as taking on board feedback from one-to-one meetings with businesses affected by the fire, we have considered data on footfall and there is a large consensus that eastern parts of the city may not have been impacted as severely; and in fact some businesses have not seen any decline in footfall or sales at all, which is very encouraging. Footfall has also increased in some streets which have become the new thoroughfares for pedestrians.”

primarkmap.jpg
The exclusion zone around Primark's Bank Buildings. Graphic Raymond Esteban

Alderman Rodgers added: “Council is committed to leading the recovery operation for our city centre and offering our business community all the support it needs to get back to business as usual, and restore Belfast to the very vibrant place we know it to be. Our ongoing #YourBelfast advertising campaign will be supported by a programme of city centre events, mini festivals, and themed activities and entertainment, over the coming months which will help to drive footfall into the city centre and benefit businesses.

“It is vital that we work together to deliver the best support possible and ensure Belfast’s economic resilience in the longer term. This financial assistance will be very welcome, but we understand it is only a short-term fix to help with cash flow while business claim from insurance companies.  Council and its city partners will continue to support investment in regenerating our city centre and looking at what we now need to do to reimagine it, and look to other cities for best practice and ideas to regenerate the part of our city centre most impacted by this devastating event.”

The council said it was proactively seeking solutions and working with Primark to reduce the cordon as soon as possible, and as soon as it is safe to do so. Depending on the outcome of the consultation around Primark’s proposed works, Council is hopeful that pedestrian access could potentially be restored between Donegall Place and Royal Avenue before Christmas – subject to health and safety considerations.

For more information and updates visit www.belfastcity.gov.uk/bankbuildings 

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