Bradley defends £2m allocated to Belfast after fire

PA

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley has defended an allocation of £2 million to help regenerate Belfast city centre following a major fire.

The Northern Ireland Retail Consortium argued that the allocation fell short of expectation.

The historic Bank Buildings, which housed Primark, was left a charred shell after the blaze on August 28 that took several days to extinguish.

The historic five-storey Bank Buildings in Belfast
The historic five-storey Bank Buildings in Belfast

A safety cordon around the building has been in place since then.

It has left 14 businesses unable to trade.

Earlier this month, it emerged the fire caused a 30% drop in footfall in the city centre.

A Belfast City Council report has found a reduction of almost 50% in some areas close to Bank Buildings.

Ms Bradley met traders affected by the fire at Belfast City Hall on Thursday morning.

The Secretary of State defended the £2 million allocated by Chancellor Philip Hammond in the Budget this week.

“I have been struck by the impact on Belfast city centre by the fire, it was a tragedy,” she said.

Lord Mayor of Belfast Deirdre Hargey, centre left, and Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley, right, speaking to the media after their meeting at Belfast City Hall about the Primark fire
Lord Mayor of Belfast Deirdre Hargey, centre left, and Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley, right, speaking to the media after their meeting at Belfast City Hall about the Primark fire

“It is an act of God, there’s nothing that anyone could do about it, but the consequences of it have been devastating for businesses.

“I have been hearing from businesses just now, I heard from businesses earlier in the year.

“I am really pleased that the Chancellor has put forward £2 million in the Budget which is for in year spending, that is in addition to the money that the council has committed, in addition to the money that Primark themselves has committed and it has to be spent by the end of March, so this is for immediate spending.

“This is to help with the regeneration of the city centre in the immediate aftermath of the fire.

“We are looking at the longer term, but this is about how do we keep people (coming) into Belfast city centre, coming and enjoying all the shops, retailers, services and others. This is to help to deliver that.”

Ms Bradley also pointed out the £350 million allocated to the greater Belfast area in the Budget as part of the Belfast region city deal.

Last week, Primark was granted permission by the city council’s planning committee to commence work on Bank Buildings.

That work has now started.

Earlier in October, the council announced details of a £1.69 million package aimed at attracting people into the city centre.

It included a ski slope, Ferris wheel and mini festival.