Belfast gets boost…

UP to 4,000 jobs could be created in a £14 million Belfast city masterplan announced by the Government today. The focus is on two major retail outlets and regeneration of the Cathedral and Castlecourt areas. I hope promises that public spaces will be improved and independent retailers will be looked after don’t turn out to be hollow – as they own many of the premises which will be torn down to make way for the new outlets.

Social Development Minister John Spellar said:

“After decades of underperformance, Belfast is on the way back. These early years of the new millennium are Belfast’s decade for growth and renewal. It’s time to utilise the value of the land in the North East and North West of the City Centre and make that value work for Belfast. The masterplans identify locations for two large department stores. Retail opportunities for local independent traders as well as international brands new to the City are also on the horizon. This type of shopping will position Belfast as a major regional retail destination. These proposals hold the potential to deliver at least 4,000 new jobs in addition to the 3,000 at Victoria Square. These jobs will provide career opportunities for our young people and the prospect of building a better life for those who live in deprived neighbourhoods.

“Victoria Square remains Government’s priority to spearhead retail-led regeneration and provides the bedrock for renewing the City Centre. The development of the North East and North West Quarters needs to complement Victoria Square by expanding the retail sector at a pace which maximises opportunity for investors and consumers.

“Both Quarters have their own unique history, challenges and potential for growth and renewal. That is why we have prepared distinct masterplans for the North East and North West. The future of both areas deserves specific detailed consideration.

“Looking ahead, we see a decade of renewal for the City Centre starting with Victoria Square and then accommodating two further schemes. There is an early decision to be made on the order in which further development proceeds. The period of public consultation on the masterplans getting underway today is therefore of great importance. We want your views on the draft masterplans. I look forward to receiving your comments.

“Last autumn, I announced that William Ewart Properties, principal landholders in the North East Quarter, would be given first opportunity to respond to the future development brief for that area.

“Castlecourt is of central and strategic importance to the regeneration of the North West Quarter and access to Castlecourt must be secured if we are to achieve the comprehensive redevelopment proposed in the masterplan. Westfield Shoppingtowns Ltd, owner of Castlecourt, has a proven track record in delivering large scale and complex development projects. I am therefore announcing, for public consultation, that Westfield should be given first opportunity to respond to the future development brief for the North West Quarter. In parallel with the consultation on the draft masterplan, I am seeking comments on this proposal before I take a final decision later this year.”

  • Davros

    I heard this and I have to ask – apart from the employment provided by construction – if these 4000 ‘new’ retail jobs arrive in Belfast will it have any overall effect on the employment figures for Northern Ireland? Will all that happens not be that retail jobs will be lost from places like Sprucefield ? If Mrs X from Carryduff needs a new Coat she’ll be able to go into Belfast and possibly buy it there rather than head off to Sprucefield ( or Benn-Gawr or Ards shopping centre or wherever ) as she does at present. What she won’t be doing is buying two new coats, one at each place.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    George Monbiot is a fan of that theory, Dav. Jobs are moved around, rather than created, he argues. This scheme could work well, but I suspect we’ll just end up with two more soulless Castlecourts.

    Of course, none of this will have anything to do with the arson attack that burnt down North Street Arcade, where independent traders had set up shop.

  • Davros

    There’s an Irony that by screwing businesses with massive Rates bills and allowing satellite malls our city and town centres were devastated – look at Benn-Gawr – by the same idiots who are now trying to get people back into the cities, having done huge amounts of Damage to the environment around the Towns and cities. Add to that the loss of numerous small businesses – which like small farms are under tremedous pressure – which has meant that many of the new jobs that were created in these hideous developments were as low-paid cannon fodder for chains – so there’s no individuality and less community involvement.

    try and find a decent tobacconist or greengrocer these days …..

  • Roger W. Christ XVII

    They need to do something about the crap transport system; we need to be talking about trams or electrifying part of the existing railway network as they have done in Dublin.

    I’m afraid I’m one of the people who got screwed by the Metro changes. Buses at the times I use them (an hour or so after the rush hour morning and evening) have been curtailed in frequency and never depart on time from the city centre.

  • Hardy Handshake

    I’m sick to death of grubby smug bigotted stinking clapped out Belfast getting everything all the time. This is yet another lesson of the GFA – the most bitter and uneducated opportunist gits get everything and the decent civilised people of everyhwere else get buck all.

    Scunnered.

  • mnob

    Well half the population live of NI within the ‘Belfast travel to work area’, where would you put the development HH ?

  • DessertSpoon

    It’s the same everywhere the big city always gets the cream of the top.

    The one good thing about the development is that it shows that someone has faith in NI/Belfast and they don’t think some terrorist is going to blow the hell of it again any time soon.

    The people are moving on – any Politicians care to come with us??

  • Hardy Handshake

    mnob

    Yeah so’s London…. if everyone flew to work every day – with an enhanced road and rail network we could vastly develop great underpriveleged areas of the North. Belfast – yeuch !!