The manager of the Cathedral Quarter Business Improvement District has called statutory agencies in the city to re-consider the impact of a thriving and growing Cathedral Quarter on baseline service provision.
Damien Corr, CQ BID manager, said: “There is a growing feeling among businesses in the cathedral quarter that we may be overlooking the basics such as street cleansing, lighting and the upkeep of the general infrastructure of the area as we look to develop our city to reach its full potential among its regional and international peers.
“For example the UU campus is set to welcome over 15,000 people in September of this year…that’s like dropping the population of Armagh into the area.
“We currently have around 3,500-4,000 students now living in the cathedral quarter as well as more student accommodation developments planned.
“Notwithstanding the current cost of living rises, we are beginning to see a more optimistic and confident outlook among many of our businesses. Within the last year 10 new businesses have opened up in the Cathedral Quarter, with another six looking good for the next 12 months and five longer term major developments in the pipeline.”
Within the last year the cathedral quarter has welcomed the opening of Lebanese food outlet Deerah, Neighbourhood cafe, Never Never mens clothing, The Academy restaurant at the university, Cathedral Pizza on Donegall Street and a number of other businesses such as The Quarter by Warren tourism accommodation.
Cathedral Quarter BID Chair Les Hume said: “The business community have voted with their feet and are investing in our area but they want assurance that at the very least our public realm will be fit for purpose when people return.
“We are committed to working in partnership with business and statutory partners to ensure that streets are safe, clean and welcoming…these baseline services should be a given, he said.
In a 2021 survey commissioned by CQ BID, 90% of respondents cited increased footfall as a key target.
Since then the BID has part-funded events such as Tumble Circus’ Winter Circus, The Belfast Children’s festival, The Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, Festival of Fools and Hit the North.
Damien explained that these initiatives have brought “tens of thousands of visitors back to Cathedral Quarter”.
He added: “We readily acknowledge the support provided by Belfast City Council, PSNI, Department for Communities and Department for Infrastructure in preparing the area for events to take place and clearing up afterwards.
“We fund these events to act as a catalyst to encourage people to come back to the Cathedral Quarter and our feedback and subsequent evaluation show that visitors enjoy and feel safe at these events.
“More needs to be done to encourage all visitors to come to the cathedral quarter and to feel safe and welcome whilst doing so.
“This is why baseline services such as street cleansing, lighting and the upkeep of the general infrastructure of the area must remain consistent, not just when events are happening or when someone makes a formal complaint.”
Last month following a series of complaints made by local businesses a meeting was organised by the Business Improvement District where all group party leaders at Belfast City Council were invited to send a representative to speak with the businesses and hear their concerns.
“Unfortunately only Alderman Jim Rodgers (UUP), of the eight parties invited, turned up on the day (SDLP and Green Party gave apologies – the other five did not acknowledge the invite or subsequent reminders)” said Damien.
“The businesses who took time out of their busy schedules commended Alderman Rodgers but were disappointed to say the least with the other parties’ failure to attend.
“We need political support and leadership to ensure that these baseline services are delivered consistently across the city centre which will in turn provide a good foundation for the City’s key strategies to build upon.
“The Cathedral Quarter BID is committed to working in partnership with elected representatives, Statutory agencies and other sector organisations. We are now calling on our councillors to engage meaningfully with city centre ratepayers.”
For more information about the Cathedral Quarter or CQ BID go to cathedralquarterbelfast.com