NICS Departments continue to work with Belfast City Council and other agencies in response to the fire at Belfast’s Bank Buildings.
Head of the Civil Service David Sterling and Permanent Secretary colleagues recently met with members of the Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce to discuss the ongoing recovery.
Working as part of the multi-agency recovery groups, the Department for Communities (DfC), Department of Finance (DoF) and Department for Infrastructure (DfI) are supporting people and businesses affected and doing everything possible to help facilitate the early return to business as usual in the city centre.
Update on actions taken by NICS departments to date:
- DoF’s Land & Property Services (LPS) has removed all business rates liability from the 17 premises inside the cordon with effect from the date of the fire. The Primark Building has also been removed from the Valuation List.
- LPS has confirmed that other properties will have zero liability if they cannot be occupied on health and safety grounds.
- To provide continued support to businesses, LPS are happy to discuss extended rate payment arrangements to assist with any cash flow difficulties and to work with businesses for any applications under the Hardship Rate Relief Scheme. For businesses affected by the fire, LPS will not at this stage seek to recover rates outstanding for periods prior to the fire.
- DfI has put into action a plan to allow access to businesses in the city centre, including for loading, and local traders have been informed. The arrangements take account of the closure of Castle Place and makes some changes to the existing traffic priorities in Berry Street, Bank Square, Fountain Street and College Street. DfI will continue to respond positively to requests from traders to ease access problems.
- DfI has fast tracked all the necessary approvals/consents for work in and around the cordon and any further approvals will continue to be given the highest priority. DfI officials have also been working with Belfast City Council to develop the necessary licences for the future works within the cordon.
- DfI has postponed its resurfacing scheme at Millfield and is closely monitoring any proposals by third parties and utility companies that may impact on the movement of pedestrians and vehicles within the city centre area. This will continue until such time that the cordon is removed.
- Translink services have been impacted by the cordon, and Translink colleagues are working hard to minimise the impact on passengers while also exploring what further role public transport can play in encouraging people to visit the city centre for shopping and entertainment.
- As part of those efforts, and working in partnership with the City Council, Translink has also extended the St George’s market shuttle bus route to assist people in getting around the city centre and particularly to those parts affected by the cordon.
- DfC has provided a grant of £50k towards a marketing and promotion campaign led by Visit Belfast to attract people into the city centre for shopping and leisure.
- DfC has agreed to make a capital grant available to Belfast City Council, of up to £200k, to make temporary improvements to the streetscape, signage and planting in the worst-affected parts of the city centre, to mitigate the impact of the fire.
- DfC staff continue to work closely with Belfast City Council to advise employers and employees who may be impacted as a result of the fire, on the employment and benefit support services available.
- DfC Historic Environment Division is engaging closely with Belfast City Council officers to assist them and Primark in determining the appropriate approach to addressing the very significant challenges in ensuring the safety of the public and the surrounding area until early decisions are taken on the future of the building.
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