Belfast Chamber Sets Out Vision For City Regeneration

Belfast business chiefs are hoping to start a conversation about what steps need to be taken to realise the full potential of the city.

President of Belfast Chamber Rajesh Rana outlined the organisation's belief that Belfast does not have the powers and controls that a city of its size and importance should have if it is to compete successfully with other cities for jobs and investment.

Comparing Belfast with other leading cities, he said they have more control over their regeneration, transport and housing with development corporations and enterprise zones to stimulate growth.

Our capital city, however, has a fragmented system of government in comparison, the business chief told over 400 delegates at the Chamber's BelFastForward conference.

According to their vision, high quality affordable housing in the city centre complemented by a well-functioning public transport and cycle network are key to local regeneration.

The Chamber also identified the need to help local cultural scenes thrive and foster an international outlook to deliver on ambitions for an inclusive, sustainable city.

Mr Rana said: "We need to make our city a great place to live. A city that is inclusive, that supports the ambition of our people, and that will attract the skills and talent that we will need in the future.
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"We are so fortunate to have at this time, many great developments planned in key city centre sites, from Belfast Harbour to Weavers Cross, from TriBeCa to Titanic Quarter and Belfast Waterside. But beyond the development of these sites, how do we ensure that we capture the essence and character of the city? It is crucial that we coordinate these masterplans so they join up to create a unified whole, and to actively contribute to the regeneration of neighbouring quarters. It is essential that individual projects are planned to deliver the services that a city centre population will need, the healthcare and childcare, movement connections and a way for the culture of this city to be expressed.

"The whole is greater than the sum of the parts, and place making requires a vision that is both innovative and local, forward looking yet respectful of the past. The challenge, the ultimate challenge, of course is delivery."

The Chamber plans to deepen connections with universities and government departments following the restoration of power sharing at Stormont.

"We believe that it is our duty as the voice for business in the city, to point out the impediments to our city achieving its full potential," Mr Rana said. "That could be in terms of skills or infrastructure or the planning process and, as we firmly believe, how the city is governed.

"Belfast is the region's biggest city by far, the centre of a metropolitan area that is home to nearly 600,00 people, the source of 1 in 3 jobs in Northern Ireland and a quarter of its rates take. Belfast is the driver of the region's economy, yet no one could say our city has the powers and controls fitting a city of this size and importance.

"Our competitor cities, and even much smaller conurbations, across these islands have far greater powers and are increasing these further. They enjoy control over regeneration, transport and housing. The basic necessities of urban life.

"Successful cities also have successful development corporations and enterprise zones. These are tools that are effectively stimulating regeneration and attracting investment to areas of need.

"In contrast, Belfast's governance is fragmented and we lack the levers to deliver change where it is needed.

"So today Belfast Chamber is seeking to start a debate on how our city is governed in the future want to shine a spotlight on how other cities have ensured their system of government has been reshaped and reformed to maximise the opportunities that growth can bring and commence a conversation about how Belfast can learn from those lessons and adapt them to our own needs so that we can realise that vision of a vibrant and dynamic Belfast."

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