2 October 2018
Latest update on the support available for Belfast city centre businesses affected by the fire
Northern Ireland government departments continue to work with other agencies to support businesses affected by the fire at Bank Buildings in Belfast and help facilitate the early return to 'business as usual' in the city centre. Various assistance has been put in place to date.
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
- removed the Primark Building from the Valuation List
- confirmed that other properties will have zero liability if they cannot be occupied on health and safety grounds
- agreed to discuss extended rate payment arrangements to assist with any cash flow difficulties
- agreed to work with businesses for any applications under the Hardship Rate Relief Scheme
For businesses affected by the fire, LPS has also confirmed they will not, at this stage, seek to recover rates outstanding for periods prior to the fire.
Traffic and access
The Department for Infrastructure (DfI) has put into action a plan to allow access to businesses in the city centre, including for loading. In an effort to ease access problems, they have:
- informed local traders about the changes
- made changes to the existing traffic priorities in Berry Street, Bank Square, Fountain Street and College Street, taking account of the closure of Castle Place
- fast-tracked all the necessary approvals/consents for work in and around the cordon
- agreed to give any further approvals the highest priority
DfI officials have also been working with Belfast City Council to develop the necessary licences for the future works within the cordon.
Furthermore, the department has postponed its resurfacing scheme at Millfield and will continue to monitor any proposals by third parties and utility companies that may affect the movement of pedestrians and vehicles within the city centre area.
The safety cordon around the Bank Buildings has affected some public transport services. Translink is working to minimise the impact on passengers while also exploring what further role public transport can play in encouraging people to visit the city centre for shopping and entertainment.
Working in partnership with the City Council, Translink has extended the St George's market shuttle bus route to assist people in getting around the city centre and particularly to those parts affected by the cordon.
The Department for Communities (DfC) has agreed to provide:
- a grant of £50,000 towards a marketing and promotion campaign led by Visit Belfast to attract people into the city centre for shopping and leisure
- a capital grant of up to £200,000 to Belfast City Council to make temporary improvements to the streetscape, signage and planting in the worst-affected parts of the city centre, to mitigate the impact of the fire
The 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.
The department's Historic Environment Division is also working with the council officers to assist them and Primark in determining how best to ensure the safety of the public and the surrounding area while structural assessments of the building are taking place.