Belfast shoppers petition for roads to stay closed in city centre

  • A petition has been launched by Belfast consumers calling for the roads in the city centre to remain closed to create a safe and pedestrianised shopping environment.

    When the historic bank buildings in Belfast city centre caught fire last year, the disruption to the local area was extreme. Shops near the blaze were forced to close entirely, and roads normally used by car, taxi and bus traffic through the city centre were closed. A wide cordon area also blocked pedestrian access to many nearby shops, causing financial strain on a number of small independent retailers.

    Belfast City Council stepped up with support for businesses affected by the fire, and planned a number of city centre initiatives over the course of the Christmas period to bolster the footfall in the local area. Pedestrian walkways were then installed to restore foot access to all of the surrounding businesses, and busses were rerouted around the closed roads.

    The result has been truly transformational for the city centre, providing space for events with pop-up food stalls and community entertainment. We had choirs singing carols at Christmas, fairground rides for children, a pop-up park with seating, local businesses offering a wider variety of foods to shoppers. Since then we've seen a series of popular events take place in the space, and the much safer and more relaxed shopping environment has proved popular with locals and tourists.

    That's all now coming to an end as the cordon is being reduced and the Castle Junction roads are re-opening, and not everyone is happy with it. People are calling on Belfast City Council to keep the road closed and retain the pedestrianised area in the city centre, arguing that traffic has already adapted to the closure and it's yielded enormous benefits for shoppers. Similar pedestrian zones in city centres have proven popular in other cities.

    When Belfast City Council asked on Twitter whether this was the type of project people wanted to see more of, 91% said yes. The council has been clear that it's ultimately not responsible for policies about the closure of the roads, but it can plan similar activities and pop-up locations elsewhere and another space of this type will be opening at Buoys Park this summer. A petition has been launched to keep the area pedestrianised, which has reached 500 signatures in just a few hours and rising.

    Source: Twitter Image © @AGRMoore

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    Brendan is a Sync NI writer with a special interest in the gaming sector, programming, emerging technology, and physics. To connect with Brendan, feel free to send him an email or follow him on Twitter.

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