Papering over the cracks in our declining town centres…

I took a walk down Great Victoria Street in Belfast this morning. It is fair to say the once Golden Mile has thoroughly lost its lustre. Most buildings are now unoccupied as this BelTel article shows.

What should we do in the face of such urban decay? Well, they paper over the cracks. Bollards have been given a lick of paint. Fake doors and windows have been applied to the front of some buildings. Most bizarrely, there is a fake frontage of the Crown Bar, just a few hundred yards from the actual Crown Bar.

Now it does look brighter than what was there before, but can we have an actual strategy to bring these buildings back into use? We need to find a way to penalise landlords who let their buildings go to wreck and ruin. Many of the properties in our city centre are owned by large companies that are land banking assets. They have extraordinarily little incentive to do anything constructive with the properties, and there are no sanctions on their mismanagement.

And the problem is not just confirmed to the Great Victoria Street but all over the City Centre. North St and Donegal St are particularly bad.

But of course, we have no government, so nothing will be done, and our town centres will continue to die on their arses. The motto of Belfast is ‘In return for so much, what shall we give back?’. Maybe it should be, ‘What did we do to deserve so much taken away from us?’

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