City centre changes…

BELFAST city centre is changing. As you dodge the PSNI mounted patrols on the way down Royal Avenue to do some early evening shopping, you might notice that there are no longer any security barriers.

  • Belfastwhite

    Some more changes on the way Corporation Tax records for Companies in the Poleglass Twinbrook area are being moved from Lisburn to Belfast. Could this be a sign that these areas are to be transferred to the Belfast City Council area or is it just coincidence?

  • CS Parnell

    This is a big deal, or at least it ought to be. As someone who remembers when these things went up and how my parents didn’t go into the city centre for a year or so, the symbolic significance is immense.

    I don’t have much sympathy for David Trimble and last night’s documentary didn’t change that much. But if it had been Paisley in the driving seat would we be here today?

    Maybe bits should be kept, Berlin Wall like, to remind people of the inhumanity of the 1922 – 1998 period.

  • pauljames

    Does anyone feel as I do that the removal of the old barriers has been a huge oportunity missed to reclaim the streets. Those areas which were previously sealed off (“the segments” for those old enough to remember) should have been totally pedestrianised with buses dropping off at high st and donegal sq. Instead the buses thunder through double parked and mostly illegal vehicles in royal avenue with high st/castle street a rat run (again illegal) to the west. Then again the council are too busy selling off or knocking down what remains of our victorian heritage to worry about wide avenues and historic buildings. Anyone for another bandstand in cornmarket? or maybe we can torch any arcade we dont like. European City of Culture my arse!

  • elfinto

    No more security barriers, eh? Maybe the old name of Hercules Street will be restored soon. It has much more character doesn`t it?

  • mark

    The culture of extended opening, Sunday shopping and opening on holidays is mainly a British/Irish/US idea. It doesn’t add anything to life. Most of Europe rejected it thinking life was a bit more important than generating profit on our rest days.

    Belfast and its Chamber of Commerce is adopting the British/US system for city centres as profit driving enterprises rather than balancing cultural and family aspects of life. (I’m not FreeP)

    TopShop being open an extra 7 hours a week doesn’t make Belfast or any city better. Making a city centre a place citizens want to be beyond spending is the way forward

    But Belfast city centre redevelopment seems a Chamber of Commerce driven project that has no reflection of quality of life beyond more than late opening and extended/easier alcohol consumption.

    We had a chance to make a decent city as it reopened after years behind grills – we decide to make a 2nd rate English provincial shopping and booze focused tip. We still let these Chamber of Commerce types be the only voices on a viable city centre and the council/government listens. We didn’t vote for them, we shop with them, why/when did we decide that shop owners get to decide the future of our city?

    Or maybe the CoC can tell me what they have done to create relaxing spaces for families after 1800 in the City(thurs night Castle court doesn’t count, paying £5 in doesn’t count)

  • As far as I understand, retailers were invited to meetings where they were asked to open until 7pm. Many businesses rejected it. I think it will only be the big department stores opening later – for most businesses opening later wouldn’t be worthwhile.

    I like the European idea – street cafes and evening entertainment in city center districts. During the summer we could get the European food market back and have them selling pancakes and the like!

    Removing the barriers is great news too. Surprised they didn’t do it sooner. I remember they used to have the security hut at the barriers opposite City Hall…

  • stan

    Shop workers seem to have been overlooked in this profit driven decision.

    Many of those working within the retail sector in Belfast city centre are presumably married with children and this decision simply means they have less time to spend with their kids.

    Ordinary workers have no say in this decision and will simply be told that they have to work longer and later in the evenings.

    The Chamber Of Commerce hiring a few clowns on stilts to walk round Royal Avenue shouting
    ‘shops open to seven’ is not going to attract more tourists.

    Its simply another money making scheme from Debenhams and the other multi million pound stores.

    Did the council agree or have any say in the extended opening decision ?

  • Aidan

    Mark – Can you give us some existing examples from other European cities for ‘relaxing spaces for families after 1800 in the City’?

    We already have a few parks in Belfast, maybe more of them?


    Of course here are some of us who cottoned on a few years ago that they weren’t security barriers anymore, they were just handy places to chain your bicycle to whilst you went shopping.

    I hope they’ve thought to replace them with other bicycle stands.

  • qubol

    I agree with mark too much of city centre redevelopment is retail driven. that said I think extended opening hours are important and quiet a few large European citys have extended opeining hours in the evenings – it will hopefully create new business and should bring some life to the city after 5:30. Another important actor is the lck of city centre accomodation – Victoria Sq will have something like 100 apartments and the new North East development between the Cathedral Quarter and Castle Court will alos incorporate new living space. These are vital to keep people in the city centre. The point about Pedestrianisation is valid also – the city centre has way too many buses racing about it and the pedestrianised areas are a joke.

  • mark


    Mark – Can you give us some existing examples from other European cities for ‘relaxing spaces for families after 1800 in the City’?

    Sure…. Bonn, Paris, Strasbourg, Madrid, Turin, Brussels, even Amsterdam and the ‘rougher’ northern port cities of Italy……….for starters.

    A street with restaurants and cafes not solely linked to youth binge drinking would be a start.

    It’s not about dedicated areas. The city is for all even after the shops shut, it shouldn’t become an alcohol driven enterprise making sure booze profit replaces retail profit. Profit isn’t entirety, people share space with retail and business.

    The ability to take a child into a Belfast city centre restaurant on a Friday or Saturday doesn’t exist because the owners and CoC have decided that selling alcohol over ambiance, family, community etc doesn’t bring as much profit.

    Families, the non booze obsessed are excluded from our limited city centre after dusk.

    I live between Belfast and another European city (the channel?). I can take my children out for a walk, a mecca-cola and a snack here in most areas at any time, I wouldn’t take them near the city after 1900 in Belfast. (plus no matter what we tell ourselves the food is still shit, spicy chicken wings? come on? as a starter? and not in a mexican?)

  • mark


    I agree absolutely city centres should be places people live. It works best when it isn’t a case of shiny one bed apartments or social dumping in areas not ear-marked for ‘development‘. People/families/communities living in and being part of a city centre making a vibrant diverse space, something Belfast hasn‘t considered in passing.

    But families, community aren’t driving the youth drinking cash bonanza, shop til you drop, high density speculator driven apartments that are the base for the redevelopment of Belfast.

    We had a blank page for the city centre and someone (CoC?) decided on the cheapest easiest (nastiest) options.

  • But that’s what the CoC is there for! It’s the city council that should look after the people and government that should plan redevelopment.

    “The Belfast Chamber of Trade & Commerce offers a wide range of services to improve the effectiveness and ultimately the profitability of businesses in Belfast. ”

    Unfortunately we’re in a bad way – the citys population is decreasing and people commute into the city for work only, choosing to live outside in satellite towns. We definitely do need more family orientated development in the centre.

  • Aidan

    It’s not about dedicated areas. The city is for all even after the shops shut, it shouldn’t become an alcohol driven enterprise making sure booze profit replaces retail profit. Profit isn’t entirety, people share space with retail and business.

    Unfortunately, I think the drink culture of ours is to blame. We like to spend an awful amount of money on it at weekends, and market forces dictate the rest.

    I don’t know if you can force these things.

  • jone


    ‘Its simply another money making scheme from Debenhams and the other multi million pound stores. ‘

    Wow you mean these shops actually hope to generate profits and employ people. Much better we had a big community arts centre or an open-air food court which would be empty for about eight months of the year.

  • jocky

    Im sorry did I miss something? We have one thread saying N.I. has the lowest unemployment, another thread saying more jobs to be created and both are filled with begrudgers and whinger’s. No wonder migrants are flooding in to N.I. when the locals dont want to work for a living.

    And we have another thread saying the gap between Catholic and Protestant middle classess is shortening. Soon to be filled by the proffesionally oppressed no doubt.

    If you are unemployed in UK or Ireland nowadays it’s probably because you dont fancy getting up for work every day.

  • nmc

    I also find it unreasonable that people think this is in any way negative. Having travelled to about a half dozen cities in Europe, I always feel jealous at the nice streets, with cafes, bars and shops open in the evenings, all buzzing with activity. Then I think of Belfast at night, a ghost town that most people don’t go near, apart from smicks/spides, muggers and other miscreants. Any time I have visitors coming into town, I invariably tell them to meet me where I live, (up west) to go for a drink, because the town is so crap. Time to change that, and reclaim the city centre.

  • tot

    the lack of cafe culture may have something to do with the fact that for nine months of the year the place is colder and wetter than a very cold and wet thing.