The efforts to bring shoppers and visitors back into Belfast city centre in the wake of the Bank Buildings fire will be supported by a further £1.1 million from Northern Ireland departments, the Head of the Civil Service announced today.
The funding follows Belfast City Council’s announcement in October, which detailed a £1.7million contribution, the £2million announced by Chancellor Philip Hammond and £500,000 given by Primark to provide support to traders.
The latest contribution from the Northern Ireland Civil Service brings the overall recovery package to nearly £6million.
David Sterling, Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, said: “Since the devastating fire at Bank Buildings, the civil service has been working closely with Belfast City Council to support affected traders in the run up to Christmas.
“This will help address some of the difficulties shoppers and visitors have faced as they try and move around the city centre. This funding package is part of our ongoing efforts to do everything we possibly can within our available resources.”
The £1.1million announced today is in addition to the £380,000 previously provided to the council by the Department for Communities.
The overall package is in place to ensure that there is plenty to attract people to Belfast city centre to complement its retail offering, between now and spring 2019.
A longer-term strategy for the city is being planned for the next 3-5 years.
Details of today’s £1.1million initiative include:
- The Department for Communities has agreed to provide a further £200,000 which brings their total support to £580,000. This will contribute to significant investment in environmental improvements in open spaces in the city centre, providing places for people to relax, eat and enjoy the city, with outdoor seating and tables, enhanced street lighting and street art, alongside a programme of main events and smaller activities.
- The Department for the Economy is providing £400,000 to spend on a range of initiatives to increase visitors to the city centre and boost tourism.
- The Department for Infrastructure’s contribution of £500,000 will allow Translink to deliver a high impact festive travel campaign, offering major discounts on fares to encourage more people to travel into the heart of Belfast and experience all the city has to offer. This will include day travel across Belfast for just £2 (£1 child) and additional services, including midnight departures. There will be an extensive range of offers on Metro/Glider, Ulsterbus, Goldline and NI Railways including family tickets and discounts for yLink and 24+ Card Holders.
Notes to editors:
1. NICS Departments continue to work with Belfast City Council and other city partners in response to the fire at Belfast’s Bank Buildings. 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.
2. Update on actions taken by NICS:
- The Head of the Civil Service, David Sterling and Belfast City Council Chief Executive Suzanne Wylie have met with traders and Primark to discuss recovery response.
- 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.
- The District Valuer within LPS has received rating applications from several agents representing a number of ratepayers in the city centre.
- LPS has been out visiting businesses in the locale, to discuss extended rate payment arrangements, to assist with any cash flow difficulties and to assist businesses with the completion of 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.
- Currently £2million of Net Annual Value (NAV) has been removed from the Valuation List, and the associated loss of income is being borne jointly by the Council and Northern Ireland departments. This position is being kept under review.
- DfI agreed and implemented road closures and diversionary routes and these continue to be closely monitored. It has also implemented revised collection and drop-off points for the two local tour bus operators.
- DfI is proactively managing planned roadworks 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.
- 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 continues to engage closely with Belfast City Council officers to assist them and Primark in determining the most appropriate approach to address the very significant challenges in ensuring the safety of the public and the surrounding area, whilst works are undertaken to make the building safe and secure.
3. Media enquiries to The Executive Office Press Office on 028 9037 8142. Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer on 028 9037 8110.
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