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People & Place: Public Realm Strategy for Belfast City Centre
FOREWORD SUMMARY OF PROPOSALS SECTION 1: INTRODUCTION The Study Area Project Aims and Objectives The Project Team The Steering Group Integration with Other Strategic Projects Equality Considerations SECTION 2: HISTORIC BACKGROUND SECTION 3: ANALYSIS The Importance of the Public Realm National and International Best Practice Regional Economic Importance Creating a Distinctive City Creating a Memorable City The Commercial Environment The Social Environment The Visitor Environment Existing Public Realm Existing Buildings Character Areas Social Dynamics Management and Maintenance SECTION 4: IMPROVING THE PUBLIC REALM – OVERARCHING CONCEPTS AND PRINCIPLES Concept Plan Developing the Character of the City A Legible Structure of Routes and Spaces Green Links Materials Kerbs Pedestrian Spaces Complementary Paving Materials Vehicular Spaces Street Trees and Vegetation Lighting Street Furniture Interpretation Public Art Public Transport Private Commercial Vehicles 2 3 6 6 7 7 7 7 7 9 10 10 10 10 11 11 11 12 12 13 14 15 16 16 19 19 19 20 21 21 22 22 22 22 23 24 24 24 24 24 25 SECTION 5: PUBLIC REALM IMPROVEMENT PROPOSALS The Civic Spine Donegall Square City Spaces Custom House Square Lanyon Place Corporation Square Odyssey Plaza Queens Quay Royal Belfast Academical Institution (RBAI) Bank Square Cathedral Quarter Writers’ Square Bridge Street/Four Corners Linen Quarter Blackstaff Square Library Quarter City Routes High Street/Castle Street Chichester Street and May Street Waterfront Boulevard Odyssey Boulevard The Retail Core York Street North Street Cathedral Way/Royal Avenue The Golden Mile Dublin Road Great Victoria Street Connectivity to City Centre Neighbourhoods SECTION 6: MAINTENANCE AND MANAGEMENT – THE NEED FOR CHANGE Management of the Public Realm Maintenance of the Public Realm The Planning Framework SECTION 7 : PUBLIC REALM IMPROVEMENT PROJECT IMPLEMENTATION PLAN FUNDING PROFILE TABLE APPENDIX A : Consultees And Reports 26 26 26 27 27 27 28 28 28 28 29 29 30 30 31 31 32 32 32 33 34 34 35 35 36 36 36 36 37 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44
People & Place: Public Realm Strategy for Belfast City Centre
This document contains government’s proposals for development of the public realm in Belfast City Centre to achieve ‘world class’ standards in urban design, maintenance and management of the streets and public squares at the heart of the City. The City Centre’s public realm is the ‘shop window’ of Belfast. It is the first and last impression for those who live and work in the City, and those who visit. It should convey a strong and positive message to its citizens and to potential investors and visitors. Outwardly, the quality of the public realm of the City should provide an aesthetically inviting image, but fundamentally should both prime and support economic and social development. Through the proposals set out in this document, government aims to maximise the potential of the City Centre’s public realm to position Belfast as a premier European regional capital and the primary retail and leisure destination in Northern Ireland. In recent years, there has been significant built development within Belfast City Centre, with many new and refurbished buildings. There has, however, been relatively little strategic thinking or investment made in the public realm. This has been recognised by government in the commissioning of this Strategy to provide a vision for the future. Government has made available substantial capital investment resources to realise that vision. The existing condition and use of Belfast City Centre’s public realm does not fulfil its potential or come close to doing so. Investment is required in order that the economic viability of the City Centre is not compromised, and indeed that it should become stronger. The experience of other cities in the UK, and across the European Union, shows that carefully structured investment in public open space can play an important part in regeneration and economic growth. This strategy outlines key projects and principles that should be adhered to in order that the public realm in Belfast City Centre can be developed cohesively. The Department for Social Development will take a positive lead to instigate the proposed public realm improvement projects through the Department’s urban regeneration initiatives and also through the support of Laganside Corporation, ensuring seamless integration of the public realm across the City Centre. This work will be complemented by support provided by Belfast City Council, the Department of Finance and Personnel Central Procurement Directorate, the Department of Regional Development’s Roads Service and the private sector. From the outset, support from all key stakeholders is required, to ensure that development can be progressed. Following the launch of this strategy, it will be important to maintain momentum. It is proposed that the key stakeholders should agree the detailed arrangements for implementation, including legislative changes, maintenance/management and scheme development. It will be equally important to seek the views of citizens as we begin to reshape the City Centre’s open spaces to provide a legacy for future generations to enjoy. This strategy identifies a vision of a place that Belfast City Centre could be, which addresses physical form, economic and social issues. It provides a pragmatic and deliverable approach to developing the City Centre in a way that will enhance its distinctiveness. An improved amenity will be provided for its citizens, along with a focus for promoting business investment and tourism within an international marketplace.
Rt. Hon. John Spellar MP Minister for Social Development
People & Place: Public Realm Strategy for Belfast City Centre
SUMMARY OF PROPOSALS
SUMMARY OF BELFAST CITY CENTRE PUBLIC REALM IMPROVEMENT PROPOSALS
City Centre Civic Spine: A central proposal of this strategy is to establish a Civic Spine, running north to south through the City Centre, incorporating the existing high footfall at areas of Donegall Square, Donegall Place and Royal Avenue. The spine would provide points of linkage with presently disparate areas of the City Centre, at Royal Avenue, Dublin Road, Laganside and Cathedral Quarter. Generous tree lined footways are proposed to consolidate prime retail frontages and encourage pedestrians to explore the entire City Centre. Donegall Square: Donegall Square has a pivotal role to play in integrating the different strands of the City Centre. Proposals for the Square include reducing the dominance of vehicular traffic and public transport in the area, and revitalising the area around the City Hall for pedestrian use reinforcing its position as the focal point for the City. Custom House Square: Laganside Corporation has implemented public realm improvements at Custom House Square achieving a space of international standard. Lanyon Place: Lanyon Place already has a high quality of public realm. Further enhancement of the area should be promoted by completion of the remaining development sites to encourage more activity to the area adjacent to the Waterfront Hall. Corporation Square: It is proposed to develop Corporation Square as the northern-most City Centre space providing an enhanced setting for the Harbour Commissioners’ office and a more public, active use. Odyssey Plaza: Odyssey Plaza is situated west of Corporation Square. The existing setting is of high quality, but would benefit from increased emphasis to the riverside aspect in response to the proposed development at the Boulevard and bridge link to Corporation Square. Queens Quay: This proposed space will complement Lanyon Place and the proposed Odyssey Boulevard. Masterplan proposals have been developed by Laganside Corporation to realise the potential of this area as a significant public space. Royal Belfast Academical Institution (RBAI): The open space at ‘Inst’ terminates the vistas from Wellington Place and should be retained as a visual amenity. Opportunities to facilitate links to the West as well as maintaining the perimeter to the school property should be promoted. Bank Square: Bank Square is situated behind Royal Avenue bordering Chapel Lane. DSD will bring forward proposals to maximise the opportunity presented for the Square as part of the regeneration of the North West Shopping Quarter. Library Quarter: The streetscapes of Library Quarter should be developed to complement the character of the area and promote its viable regeneration. DSD will bring forward regeneration proposals for the area within the North West Quarter Draft Masterplan (Part 2). Cathedral Quarter: This area is the cultural quarter for the City Centre. Laganside Corporation is in the process of completing the physical renewal of the Quarter. Proposals set out in DSD’s draft regeneration masterplan for the adjoining North East Shopping Quarter will further enhance public space in this part of the City Centre.
The open space currently lacks vitality and proposals for the Square have been set out in DSD’s draft regeneration masterplan for the Area. Streetscape improvements have been carried out and further enhancement of the public realm in this area is proposed in the DSD draft regeneration masterplan for the Area. It is proposed that the streets and lanes should be enhanced to provide an improved quality of environment within the existing busy retail area. Rosemary Street. Donegall Street and Waring Street is an important link between Cathedral Quarter and the Retail Core. Redevelopment of the University of Ulster Campus and Cathedral Gardens should hopefully maximise the potential liveliness that student activities can bring to the area.4 People & Place: Public Realm Strategy for Belfast City Centre Writers’ Square: To the southwest of St Anne’s Cathedral is Writers’ Square. It is therefore proposed to rationalise the street form and to establish a boulevard that links the City spaces of Corporation Square. Queen Street and the series of entries and arcades particularly linking with High Street. Fountain Street. High Street/Castle Street: High Street and Castle Street are strategic connections within the City Centre. . Public realm enhancement of the area envisage St. High quality streetscape should be implemented. DSD will bring forward development proposals for this area in its Draft Regeneration Masterplan for the North East Quarter. with bus and services access retained. Malachy’s Church and it’s setting providing the focus for the area. North Street: This is an important interface between the retail core to the South and Library Quarter to the North and is in a poor physical state. Linen Quarter: Linenhall Street runs north-south through the area. DSD will bring forward proposals for the area in the Draft North West Regeneration Masterplan including a major new public space. Waterfront Boulevard: The link from Clarendon at the north to East Bridge Street at the south is at present disparate in character and lacks legibility around the Queen Elizabeth Bridge and Queen’s Bridge. Blackstaff Square: Blackstaff Square is located along Amelia Street and should be developed as a neighbourhood space providing controlled opportunities for outdoor entertainment and dining. Custom House Square and Lanyon Place. Cathedral Way/Royal Avenue: This area runs between the Royal Avenue Retail Core and Cathedral Quarter. York Street: It is proposed that consideration be given to the regeneration of York Street with the objective of renewing its City functions. Church Lane. taking account of the Victoria Square Scheme and lighting columns with banner attachments introduced to brand civic activities. Montgomery Street. Chichester Street/May Street: These are two complementary civic streets linking the City’s primary civic buildings of the City Hall and Waterfront Hall. It is proposed that the buildings and streetscape be developed as a key component of City linkage. The Retail Core: Key streetscapes within this area include Lombard Street. with the termination at the Ormeau Baths Gallery and Green Links to the south. Ann Street. Castle Lane. It is proposed that through traffic should be displaced. thus releasing significant space for public realm enhancement and positive use. Arthur Street. Bridge Street/Four Corners: The area from the junction of Bridge Street with North Street.
It is advocated that Great Victoria Street. is also required. inappropriate building and land uses. Implementation DSD proposes to take forward the implementation of the above proposals over a period of 5 to 10 years. the availability of funding and meeting planning legislative requirements. where possible. . clubs and restaurants and late evening activity is significant. with an attractive street form and function. Public realm improvements in this area will aim to develop a city route between Shaftesbury Square and the Civic Spine via Linenhall Street West. To the west.People & Place: Public Realm Strategy for Belfast City Centre 5 The Golden Mile: This area has a considerable number of pubs. College Avenue. DSD will work with Belfast City Council. which too often result in the unacceptable and unattractive disfigurement of the streetscape. DSD will appoint an urban landscape design expert with an established international track record to advise on the implementation of public realm improvement in Belfast City Centre. which will increase in value as the implementation of the above proposals begin to take effect. Management Of The Public Realm Increased use of the public space in Belfast City Centre through the facilitation of staged events in recent years at the City Hall and Laganside has demonstrated the potential of the City’s public space to offer economic and social benefits. Millfield and Carrick Hill should be developed. Great Victoria Street: Land to the west of this area has significant problems due to derelict land. The physical environment of the area is relatively poor and dominated by vehicles. A programme of public realm improvements will be brought forward with the aim of attracting increased numbers of people visiting the area throughout the day. it is proposed that regeneration and development should be focused on Great Victoria Street Station. Fisherwick Place. Improved coordination of essential utility works. There is currently little proactive coordinated management of the public space. There is a lack of integration with the City Centre and adjacent residential communities. Dublin Road: Dublin Road will be more closely linked with the rest of the City Centre. DRD Roads Service and the private sector to fully address the issues that have been outlined in Section 6 of this Strategy concerning management and maintenance to ensure that the potential of the public realm is fully realised and its attractiveness protected. The implementation of the improvement schemes is subject to the outcome of economic appraisal.
The Study Area 1. It included the Westlink to the west. a detailed public realm improvement strategy for the City Centre. accessibility and safety of the public realm. 1. priorities and plans for the regeneration of the City Centre. DSD commissioned The Paul Hogarth Company. the River Lagan to the east.3 The project brief assigned to The Paul Hogarth Company defined the study area as that which was within a half-mile radius of the City Hall. for which the Department for Social Development (DSD) has statutory responsibility in Northern Ireland. in consultation with key stakeholders.6 People & Place: Public Realm Strategy for Belfast City Centre SECTION 1: INTRODUCTION 1. public sector and community sector stakeholders to enhance Belfast’s role as a premier European regional capital.1 Development of the public realm is a core component of urban regeneration. which set out government’s vision.2 As part of its regeneration plans for Belfast City Centre. Shaftsbury Square to the south and . This document summarises the conclusions and recommendations produced by The Paul Hogarth Company and sets out DSD’s plans for implementing the Strategy. specialists in urban design. objectives. to produce. At the heart of this is government’s commitment to work in partnership with the private sector. DSD in April 2004 published a Regeneration Policy Statement for Belfast City Centre. A key contributor to realizing the full potential of the City Centre is the need to improve the quality.
or should be. These include the over-arching Belfast City Centre Regeneration Policy Statement.4 The form and function of the public realm cannot be divorced from that of the buildings that give it definition. Belfast City Centre Management Company. subject to economic appraisal. Laganside Corporation. The boundaries were refined at the outset of the project through discussion with the Steering Group. Department of the Environment’s Planning Service. secure sustainable regeneration of the public realm of the City Centre. The consultant team comprised: The Paul Hogarth Company (Framework Planners and Landscape Architects) Colin Stutt Consulting (Consultant Economist) GVA Grimley (Property Development Consultant) David Campbell Associates (Chartered Quantity Surveyors) The Steering Group 1.5 Through broad consultation and the production of a pragmatic strategy. the Draft Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan. funding and meeting statutory planning requirements. multi-disciplinary team of consultants combined their expertise to comprehensively address the issues and to develop a strategy that can be used as a practical tool by the relevant agencies to . dovetailing existing and proposed built form and public realm. which may emerge. Equality Considerations 1. 1. A concept was developed which underpinned a Framework Plan for the area. This strategy will be updated if necessary to reflect any changes. DSD is required to have due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity between: The Project Team 1. actively involved in its development. was established to guide the consultants. The project team appraised the built and open space fabric of the City Centre and consulted widely with those who were.8 The principles addressed by this strategy are wide-ranging and relate cohesively with other strategic initiatives. Prototype design proposals were developed for key areas to illustrate how the Framework Plan can be implemented and facilitate the production of outline budget costs. and.6 An experienced. The Steering Group was comprised of: Belfast City Council. in particular the Urban Design component prepared by Urban Initiatives has significant relevance to this strategy. Project Aims and Objectives 1. Whilst it is fundamental that the implementation of public realm improvement across the City Centre conveys a strong sense of cohesion.9 Under section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998.People & Place: Public Realm Strategy for Belfast City Centre 7 Frederick Street to the north. projects have been identified which can be delivered as ‘stand alone’ elements. Department of Regional Development’s Roads Service. Integration with other Strategic Projects 1. This relationship of mutual dependency requires to be understood and shaped cohesively for the City Centre to function effectively. a structure has been established with the objective of facilitating the delivery of a high quality public realm that will contribute positively to the economic and social vitality of the City. chaired by DSD.7 A Steering Group. and the Belfast Metropolitan Transport Plan. DSD is grateful to the Steering Group for their contribution in developing the public realm strategy.
• Men and women generally. the Department has undertaken to screen each of the more detailed recommendations that will now emerge as identified public realm improvement schemes from this strategy. These obligations are designed to ensure that equality and good relations considerations are made central to policy development and have the potential to make a real difference to the lives of the . DSD is fully committed to complying with this statutory obligation and has set out in its Equality Scheme how it will fulfil this. There is a degree of flexibility within the implementation process to revise the list of nominated schemes. This further screening will involve consultation with representatives of each of the section 75 groups as well as other stakeholders and interested parties. Retail Core). • Persons with dependants and persons without. In consulting with key stakeholders in the development of this strategy. how policy development may impact on them. age. by consulting with and taking into account.g.8 People & Place: Public Realm Strategy for Belfast City Centre • Persons of different religious belief. However. Donegall Square. and people most likely to be affected. These identified schemes have been chosen on the basis of the condition of the existing public realm and the importance of such areas to the overall perception of Belfast (e.10 The Department has screened this strategy in accordance with the criteria laid down by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland and is satisfied that there are no significant implications for equality of opportunity that would require a full Equality Impact Assessment to be undertaken at this stage. political opinion or racial group. Programmes of work to be undertaken will only proceed after this further consideration of the statutory duty obligations. marital status or sexual orientation. • Persons with a disability and persons without. political opinion. racial group. no specific equality of opportunity issues were raised. In addition to this obligation. the Department in carrying out its functions shall have regard to the desirability of promoting good relations between persons of different religious belief. given the overarching nature of this strategy and the earlier high level consultation with key stakeholders. 1.
that the success of the Laganside area has highlighted deficiencies in the quality of the traditional City Centre and in establishing connections with it and outlying communities. should provide a response to past development issues that have affected the City Centre in positive or negative ways and future development opportunities. It was charged with the regeneration of Belfast’s riverside and waterfront areas and the Cathedral Quarter. tobacco and ship related industries. as industrialisation manifested itself in the form of the linen. The River Farset extended west to the hills. It is important that the public realm strategy. The history associated with it and the evolving City to either side should. This legacy of strong urban structure is a great asset that should be capitalised upon through the development process. The City Hall. The original Belfast Castle was built in 1200AD by the Normans. along the line of the High Street. buildings were damaged and replaced according to need resulting in a lack of cohesion within the built form. Whilst there has been a recent introduction of apartments to a number of areas. Linen Conservation Area and Belfast City Centre Conservation Areas. be recognised. which still exist. choosing to live and socialise in outlying areas. Previously at low water. 2. the legacy of displacement still impacts on the City Centre. The recent history associated with civil unrest has had a significant impact on the City as a whole.2 . along with numerous buildings of distinction. The River Farset itself has long since ceased to be an open watercourse and is now little more than a culverted sewer. During that period. Concern has however been noted. There continues to be a high dependency of people on car borne travel into the City Centre and the resultant dominance of wide streets and vehicles within the core areas. in the context of the Regeneration Policy Statement. but has become the centrepiece of the City. The Department of the Environment has designated three Conservation Areas within the study area. however. Much of the City form evolved in Georgian times. During the most difficult times.1 Early Belfast established as a settlement at a crossing point of the River Farset at its confluence with the River Lagan. It was during this period that much of the gridiron street form was established.3 Laganside Corporation has had a significant impact on the development of the City. Fundamental to that process was the establishment of the Lagan Weir to control water levels. the mud banks were exposed and the odour associated with the River was a deterrent to business and residential development. in the vicinity of what is now the Custom House. built on the site of the former White Linen Hall is a relatively new building (constructed between 1890 and 1906).People & Place: Public Realm Strategy for Belfast City Centre 9 SECTION 2: HISTORIC BACKGROUND 2. people tended to move out of the City Centre. Development pressure within the City Centre and around its periphery is considerable and sustained. including alongside the River Lagan and in the Linen Quarter. and is bounded by fine buildings to each side. Now the area is evolving strongly. recognising their historic importance. between what is now Castle Place and Corn Market. with limited activity in the core areas after business hours. These are the Cathedral Conservation Area. 2.
Liverpool and Manchester and indeed with other centres of population across the European Union. squares. plans and guiding themes to achieve regeneration including the development of the public realm. well managed public spaces and these in turn attract customers.2 Development of high quality public realm. such as the block paving along Donegall Place. The need for a high quality.4 In recognition of the contribution which high quality urban design has made to achieving urban renewal in regional capital cities across Europe. That vision is to enhance the role of Belfast. particularly to the north and west. targeted and integrated development. priorities. found that there is an increase in land values surrounding good quality open spaces. leisure and business. Glasgow.1 The current lack of cohesion of Belfast City Centre public realm compounds the fragmented form of the area. By contrast. improving its international image and maintaining its role as the cultural capital. 3. The Regeneration Policy Statement for Belfast City Centre provides clear direction and a route map for the further regeneration of the City Centre and a guide to private sector investors by identifying government’s regeneration objectives. the centre of regional administration and specialised services. long lasting materials. The Public Realm Strategy set out in this document aims to establish a public realm improvement programme that will help contribute to improving Belfast’s position as a premier European regional capital. Belfast will have difficulty in competing with other UK regional centres such as Birmingham. There is a strong need for that commitment to be extended throughout the central areas. DSD will appoint an urban landscape design expert with an established international track record to advise on the implementation of public realm improvement in Belfast City Centre.5 The Northern Ireland Regional Development Strategy (RDS) sets out government’s vision and agenda for Belfast. creates a dated impression of a transient environment. ‘The Value of Public Space’ published in January 2004. are also recognised. Prolific use of materials of relatively poor quality. Without sustainable. The CABE research reflects Regional Economic Importance 3. A key objective of the RDS is to restore Belfast City Centre as the regional hub for retail.10 People & Place: Public Realm Strategy for Belfast City Centre SECTION 3: ANALYSIS The Importance of the Public Realm 3. employees and services”. The provision of good access between the City Centre and its facilities and the outlying communities. such as those at Lanyon Place give a positive message to the private sector that it is a place that has a long-term investment future. The research indicated that “the presence of good parks. the developing trends in national and international public policy which emphasises the importance of high quality. National and International Best Practice 3. 3. for the reasons outlined is one of the core policies contained within the Belfast City Centre Regeneration Policy Statement. the use of high value.3 Research produced by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) in England and Wales. and as a major industrial centre. effective public realm is not optional. well-designed public realm as underpinning economic growth and social development. gardens and other public spaces becomes a vital business and marketing tool as companies are attracted to locations that offer welldesigned. .
thereby extending the stay and maximising consequent spending capacity. the length of stay is increased and there is an encouragement to venture into adjacent areas. the public realm has a distinct function to fulfil. do what is required then leave. Narrow pavements and traffic congestion tend to make people move more quickly than generous pavements with little threat from vehicles. undermines the potential of Belfast’s City Centre in this respect. The Edinburgh example of the stone paved ‘magic carpet’ is well recognised. the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. . Prague or Barcelona. with insufficient movement from one to another.People & Place: Public Realm Strategy for Belfast City Centre 11 Creating a Distinctive City 3. there is a ‘hit and run’ mentality that influences shopping patterns. providing increased quantity and diversity.6 There is a need to strategically position Belfast in the international market place. that is. combined with pavements that are uneven. similar to that which has happened in Glasgow.8 The retail experience of the City Centre does not fulfil its potential. The public realm and use of Belfast City Centre currently fails to function at that level but holds the potential to redress this. If people move more slowly. The shopper/visitor has a visual reassurance that they are within a special area. Government’s commitment to the development of the retail-led proposals for Victoria Square. The City tends to operate in zones. Vehicle dominance in the prime retail streets. Its activities and culture need to be memorable. Accordingly. With the exception of a few notable buildings. Creating a Memorable City 3. In this respect the public realm should be the ‘shop window’ for the City. so that those who visit for whatever reason leave with positive memories that they will enthuse about to others. whereby people know what they want and go directly to. or the London Eye are instantly recognisable and magnetic in their attraction. which they would expect to enjoy for whatever reason. along with street trading and other obstructions. and the North West and North East Quarters. will be of significant benefit to the retail experience of the City. The public realm as part of a package. the River and riverside developments. Belfast has the potential to develop new and existing buildings and spaces to genuinely compete on an international basis. presenting a strong and positive message as a first and last impression. to facilitate the processes of shopping. This would create a growing constituency of interest in the City.9 Improvements to the public realm can facilitate the movement of people. Victoria Square’s location will provide a significant incentive to the movement and distribution of people between the established retail environment of Donegall Place and Royal Avenue/Castle Court. and with Lanyon Place. 3. Importantly. the City has few recognisable icons. providing that the destinations it connects are of appropriate quality.7 Belfast does not currently have a public realm that it can market internationally. without venturing to the Dublin Road or Cathedral Quarter. say CastleCourt. defining the characteristics that would entice a company or individual to invest in or visit the City rather than go elsewhere. browsing is promoted. Images such as the Smithfield torches in Dublin. Within retail areas. The Commercial Environment 3. where businesses located on streets with high quality finishes experience higher footfalls.
Public spaces are places where people should meet and be involved in a range of activities whether passive or dynamic. the role of City Centre spaces is vital. Consulting a map does not usually indicate to visitors where the best shops or restaurants are. They provide common ground where people from all backgrounds can meet and participate in the life of the regional capital. with its divided outlying communities. Belfast . They can become attractions in their own right. and provide a valuable function in orientating people. but civic squares are recognisable. which includes ‘reinforcing city communities’. Experience of other successful cities tends to suggest that these should be the focus for activity. Heritage is something which both local people and visitors are attracted by.12 People & Place: Public Realm Strategy for Belfast City Centre The Social Environment 3. The Visitor Environment 3. Unfortunately Belfast’s civic spaces are limited and do not fulfil expectations.11 Civic spaces are places that are expected in most cities to be hubs of activity. which undermines the legibility of the City and is yet another aspect that mitigates against Belfast realising its potential.10 The Belfast City Centre Regeneration Policy Statement emphasises the need for the public realm to be developed to complement the other key themes. Particularly in respect of the social context of Belfast.
and to the east between the River and Short Strand/Lower Newtownards Road. with many areas currently being used for surface car parking and vehicular circulation.or should. lacks quality and cohesion. Existing Public Realm 3.14 Lanyon Place however. but are disjointed from surrounding areas. The story of the City is not however made readily accessible and for many. Towards the edge of the study area linkage to peripheral communities and facilities are in places poor or absent.15 There is currently a lack of critical mass to the retail/visitor experience. stakeholder organisations. with a few notable exceptions.13 Land that is not occupied by buildings is apparently prolific within the City Centre. and by comparison with the Republic of Ireland and other European Cities. but were the result of demolition work. consultants working on significant projects. other public sector bodies. The retail core to either side of Donegall Place/Royal Avenue tends to operate in isolation of the Dublin Road/Bedford Street area. and detracts from adjacent business premises. Without a guiding framework this lack of integrity will continue to undermine the essence of the City Centre. whilst Laganside. That which exists is varied in its usefulness and contribution to the City.People & Place: Public Realm Strategy for Belfast City Centre 13 has a wealth of culture and heritage. or were left-over spaces that could not be economically developed. Linkages through the City Centre largely exist in appropriate locations. and rarely add to the distinctiveness of the City. 3. Poor design standards often contribute to maintenance problems. 3. In reality. adjacent to the Waterfront Hall. lighting columns and other elements of street furniture are eclectic. Blackstaff Square. little is genuine public realm. Paving. Through the appraisal work. for example is a public space that has become misused. is high quality public realm that is managed and maintained to a high standard. with its Lanyon Place and Odyssey zones is separate again. This process was consolidated by an extensive programme of consultations with government departments. and developers whose work influences the way in which the City functions. Use of materials throughout the City Centre. the history of the people and culture remain untapped sources of inspiration. As identified by the Belfast Visitor & Convention Bureau. thereby creating a prestige setting for the concert hall and premiére business premises. furthering the spiral of decline. This is particularly relevant alongside the Westlink. A list of consultees and reports that were reviewed to provide the context for this strategy are listed in Appendix A.12 The existing land and building uses within the study area have been appraised. visitor and retail stays are . it was identified that land and building uses tend to function within zones. 3. and the image that is conveyed does not have the impact that it could . though many are not of appropriate quality. Many of the spaces were not ‘designed’.
3. The Victoria Square Regeneration Scheme. Spaces and routes should be coherently linked with views.14 People & Place: Public Realm Strategy for Belfast City Centre shorter than they could be. Laganside is well on the way to completing its physical regeneration remit within Cathedral Quarter and development proposals for Titanic Quarter are emerging. not only adding to the quality and diversity of retail on offer. pubs. no matter how high quality the route itself is. which encourage movement from one area to another. and in part due to a lack of quality and quantity of facilities and overall experience. because of the quality of materials and detailing and because of the way in which they are used should complement these. Likewise. restaurants. through the doors and windows of shops.16 However. landmarks and other forms of punctuation. will provide significant impetus to the process of improving this situation. galleries or tourist facilities it is difficult to encourage the movement of people from one end to the other. but also facilitating connections between different quarters. Spaces need buildings to provide enclosure and spatial definition. It is in this respect that the relationship between buildings and spaces is fundamentally important. but routes and spaces that are special. cafes. If a route or space does not have buildings alongside which interact with it. due to open in 2007.18 Of principal importance to the public realm strategy is the role that the buildings play in terms of contributing appropriate activation to the spaces and routes. Existing Buildings 3. This is in part because people are not encouraged to explore the City as a whole.17 Much remains to be done to raise the Belfast experience to the urban design standards of the best European regional capital cities which provide memorable civic spaces that epitomise the image of such cities. 3. but most also require them to contribute vitality and use. most City Centre . Regeneration masterplanning is underway in the North West and North East Quarters of the City Centre. the situation is undergoing significant change. Belfast has some fine buildings.
but through their use and activation. although this will change with the opening of Victoria Square. the Customs House. it is important to identify those that make a positive contribution and which should be retained and enhanced. but again holds greater potential for visitors to the City through further extended opening hours.People & Place: Public Realm Strategy for Belfast City Centre 15 premises rely on footfall for their business success. Harbour Commissioners Office and Waterfront Hall need to be encouraged to maximize the opportunity which these fine buildings can offer to the visitor through extended opening hours. collections of buildings. which can or should be landmarks and focal points for the City. 3. Without high quality public realm. Character Areas 3. but due to visual barriers associated with security adjacent to the Courts and lack of active frontage along Chichester Street. 3. St. The agencies that now own and manage buildings such as the City Hall. Buildings.20 Some of the City’s finest buildings have a magnetism that attracts people to them. distinctive City environment.George’s Market has been restored with great care and is now a hive of activity on Fridays and Saturdays.21 It is important that the strategy facilitates the realisation of a high quality. it is difficult to encourage the movement of people and the duration of stay to be extended. Landmarks punctuate the legibility of the City. not only visually. events and exhibitions. It should build on the characteristics that make Belfast a special place. It is also important to identify locations where new landmarks should be created. the route is currently under-used. and ensure that these components . The link between Donegall Square and the Waterfront Hall is relatively short. There is a significant need to identify key buildings.19 Buildings with ‘dead’ ground floor elevations bound many existing areas of public realm and key routes. Through this strategy. but unfortunately do not reward the visitor with an opportunity to enter and engage with them. It is clear therefore that the buildings and public realm must work together for the potential of the City to be fulfilled. make Belfast the special place that it is. landscapes and vistas to them.
as appropriate uses are introduced. Even when these components are integrated. it is somewhere that people should meet and socialise and somewhere that people visit to be part of a vibrant environment. but it is also fundamentally related to the way in which people use and interact with it.23 High quality public realm requires the combination of good design. routes and buildings need to respond positively to social dynamics. The impact of divided communities requires careful. the scale of buildings and the spaces between them. and buildings. sensitive consideration in the implementation of the public realm strategy with the objective of using best practice in urban design to contribute positively to the reduction of elements of division. Whilst solitude is a characteristic to be cherished in the Mournes or on the North Coast. the potential is rarely fulfilled without appropriate management and maintenance regimes. their uses. As with the existing land and building uses. Whilst there is a significant lack of positive use of the City Centre public realm. The full policy for the control of development within City Centre Character Areas is contained in Policy UE1. there is neither a comprehensive character and identity for the whole of the City Centre. ensuring that areas are kept clean and safe. Janitorial maintenance operations are essential. Draft BMAP has identified nine character areas which specify urban design criteria including allignment. Appropriate routes to the neighbourhoods across the City need to be provided. the connections to places where people do live are particularly important. In taking forward the implementation of this strategy DSD will give regard to this Policy.16 People & Place: Public Realm Strategy for Belfast City Centre are safeguarded. . DSD will address the need to further improve the coordination of the management and maintenance of the public realm within the City Centre. and indeed enhanced and complemented. This is a factor that should be consolidated upon. massing and scale. live or visit. the character areas of the City are currently fragmented and lack cohesion. materials. Currently. Spaces.22 The vitality of the City Centre relies on the built fabric of buildings and spaces. it was noted through the consultation process that one of its important qualities is that it is accepted and used by all sections of the community. and by colours and textures of materials. It is in this way that an image can be portrayed that will be embraced by those who have grown up and lived in the City and by those who are contemplating it as a place to work. These areas are influenced by amongst other things. With few people currently living in the City Centre. The City Centre is a place for people to shop and do business. it is rarely something that makes a City Centre space special. Management and Maintenance 3. nor a legible sequence of localized areas. Social Dynamics 3. detailing.
This creates a congested environment that is a deterrent to browsing and enjoying spending time in the place. but by the ways in which they are used. There are no mechanisms at present for the vehicle to be removed to enable the public realm to function as intended.People & Place: Public Realm Strategy for Belfast City Centre 17 3. and indeed often result in their use for parking. Other spaces are driven by activity. seats. New development will be expected to incorporate active uses and positive features at ground floor level. The Draft BMAP seeks to promote vitality at street level. not by the design components. kiosks and other furniture and traffic. This feature will assist in the animation of the street and improve legibility. Belfast’s public realm lacks cohesive positive use. public spaces such as Writers’ Square and Blackstaff Square lack appropriate activity and purpose. performances and of things happening. The placing of tables and chairs on footways outside cafes is deemed an obstruction and currently the only penalty for a vehicle parked within a pedestrian zone is a ‘parking fine’. . The Road Traffic Act does not allow streets to be closed for carnivals and other civic events. 3. In addition. for quietly enjoying a sunny seat or a pleasant view. which in turn is an important factor associated with inhibiting increased spending potential. The prime retail streets are compromised by inappropriately located street traders.24 Memorable spaces are often made. Current planning policies place little emphasis on developers to introduce appropriate ground floor uses in key areas. For some this may be passive. by the passage of people.25 There are times when existing policies and legislation compromise the ability to use the public realm to its full potential. The Draft Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan highlights the importance of developing a high quality urban environment and refers to the Belfast City Centre Public Realm Strategy as guiding the cohesive development of public realm in the City Centre.
18 People & Place: Public Realm Strategy for Belfast City Centre .
Whilst it is important that the City should develop as a consolidated unit. building on initiatives that are . rather than being fragmented as is currently the case. This is structured as follows: The Character – the image of the City as a whole and the need for distinctive Quarters. it is also firmly founded on delivering the core principles contained within the Belfast City Centre Regeneration Policy Statement. Clearly this will take a considerable period to realise. whilst being integral parts of the overall vision. The historic roots of the place are important. 4. Materials. This section of the strategy outlines overarching concepts and then develops the principles of key components to illustrate how they may be manifested. Through discussion with the Belfast Visitor & Convention Bureau.4 Characteristics that make Belfast special include the views to the hills to the east and west. Private and commercial vehicles. from most parts of the City Centre. Visitors have noted the warmth of welcome that is provided. It is important that the City should develop in such a way that this asset is capitalised upon.People & Place: Public Realm Strategy for Belfast City Centre 19 SECTION 4: IMPROVING THE PUBLIC REALM – OVERARCHING CONCEPTS AND PRINCIPLES Concept Plan 4. Legible hierarchy of routes and spaces – the proposed structure of public realm. This provides a comprehensive and cohesive vision for the future. Developing the Character of the City 4. but should be viewed in the context of initiatives that can be undertaken from an early date that will contribute significantly to the processes of change that are required. Public transport. together will bring about the sustainable and comprehensive enhancement of the public realm of the City. it will be important to respond to the distinctiveness of areas within it. and the linen and tobacco buildings should all be recognised within the developing framework. or those who are leafing through holiday or week-end break brochures. 4. and the relationship with the River Lagan and Belfast Lough.1 The Concept Plan responds to the appraisal of the existing conditions and presents a strategic response to the need for positive changes to be delivered. therefore visual and social references to the Port. one of the primary assets of the City that has been identified is its people. with icons such as the giant cranes of Samson and Goliath. Green Links – the concept of physically as well as visually linking the City with the hills to the west and east and the value that green space brings to a City Centre. The current lack of spaces for people to meet and participate in activities. as well as the lack of nighttime activity within the central areas are issues that should be resolved in order that the City’s potential can be realised.2 Whilst recommendations are made which.3 It is important that the proposed development of the built and public realm form of the City Centre should consolidate the positive characteristics to ensure that it becomes a distinctive City which those who live and work there respect and recognise as their own but which also appeals to those considering the location of a prospective business. which will require significant capital expenditure and policy changes to bring to fruition. The concept of City Quarters is advocated in this respect.
historical references. Belfast.6 Opportunities to introduce more residential units to the City Centre. It will be important for the Quarters to emerge as special places in their own right. but will be of benefit in cost and operational terms in relation to ongoing maintenance. Uses should be encouraged that retain or add activity. orientate themselves within and move around. particularly with its . Buildings should be developed to maximise their relationship with the street or space. seats. Elements that unify the City may include core materials. A Legible Structure of Routes and Spaces 4. 4. A ‘family’ of street lighting columns and fixtures.5 Quarters should respond to localised distinctions relating to uses. the ways in which people use those areas. as used elsewhere.20 People & Place: Public Realm Strategy for Belfast City Centre emerging for areas such as Cathedral Quarter. whilst high quality facades and signs should be promoted. combined with the future vision of how areas and the City Centre as a whole may be developed. such as the distinctive Belfast kerb and predominant use of Caithness slab paving. the scale of buildings and spaces or materials. New York has an extreme structure in this respect. but which have cohesion within the City as a whole. Market Quarter and Linen Quarter. colours or textures. litter bins and other elements of furniture should be established for use. particularly above retail or other active ground floor uses should be encouraged to bring added vitality to the area. should be considered in this respect. 4. rather than the diverse collection that currently exists. This will not only aid visual cohesion. This would provide an opportunity for complementary materials to be used in key areas. Proposed character areas have been identified through appraisal of the physical characteristics that exist. The strong and good template that the grid-iron streets provide is an asset to be capitalised upon. but one that facilitates the definition of city quarters and is an example worthy of note.7 Successful towns and cities are legible places that people can readily understand. Incentives including grants or rate reductions.
These range from the open hillsides. The tiers reflect the fact that the Civic Space and Spine should be at the heart of Belfast’s existence. Given the likely proliferation of these materials. but should also contribute to the development of a positive relationship with the River Lagan. which penetrate the City Centre. It is proposed that these corridors. Each is important. It is in this way that marketing and branding can be most effective. their choice should be carefully considered. and without the others playing their part to the full. It identifies three tiers of spaces and routes that link them. whether as regional magnets or as special places for people who live or work in adjacent streets. whilst Neighbourhoods have more localised significance. Central Station and Gamble Street. the City as a whole will not fulfil its potential. Opportunities exist to link existing open spaces. has the potential to be such a place. to sub-urban parks. including one-way systems and pockets of dereliction within central areas. but due to a combination of circumstances. It is proposed that the spaces should contribute a range of functions to the City and operate at a variety of levels. • high density accessibility nodes at Great Victoria Street Station. as part of a sustainable response to addressing social needs. The tiers of public realm should relate strongly with each other. It is proposed that choices be based on past performances and appropriateness. It is advocated that a palette of core materials be established that will provide the required cohesion. The Draft Urban Environment Strategy identified: Green Links 4. an overarching concept of creating physical as well as visual linkage is advocated.People & Place: Public Realm Strategy for Belfast City Centre 21 existing grid framework of streets. should promote pedestrian and cycle access into the communities and countryside at the edges of the City. • key gateways to Belfast City Centre. A considered balance is required that will encourage the richness that comes with diversity. this is undermined. This strategy provides a framework with a legible hierarchy within which development can take place. Materials 4.8 In recognising the importance of the visual links between the City. • key streets in Belfast City Centre. it is important that a brief can be provided that outlines the functions that the place should have. they should be supported by the City components. function. materials and detailing to create character and distinctiveness. This will also provide part of a network of pedestrian and cycle routes that facilitate access to City Centre work and leisure for people living in outlying areas. but also which guides the use of materials. Grosvenor Road. and • key nodes along arterial routes. work and visit can be captured. . giving coherence to the structure of the City. and the enthusiasm of those who live. whilst maintaining an overall coherence. to inner city spaces and generous tree lined boulevards. consideration should be given • nine Belfast City Centre Character Areas. with new ones to create ‘Green Links’.9 The development of the public realm of the City should combine form. Particularly in relation to the street furniture. which function at a citywide level. The strategy also established strategic design guidance and strategic priorities for improving the quality of the visual environment. As opportunities for the development of the public realm arise. the River and the hills to either side.
in response to the locality of a project. existing City Centre concrete carriageway wearing courses should be replaced with asphalt. If high quality stone paving cannot for whatever reason be used. It contravenes the principles of using large module paving for pedestrian areas and requires replacement after relatively short periods. as to whether those with mobility impairments can access the area. tying Quarters together. It is an extremely durable material. such as stone. Through renewal programmes. In this respect it is recommended that slabs or large element units be used for main desire lines.22 People & Place: Public Realm Strategy for Belfast City Centre not only to robustness. In areas where a wallto-wall surface treatment is appropriate. This will aid coherence. cubes. with narrower gauges being used for narrow lanes and alleys. when they were replaced with bituminous and concrete products. It should however be noted that varying modules can and should be used to respond to the scale of a street or space.12 Using the canvas of the Caithness.13 Principal vehicular routes should continue to be surfaced with asphalt. it is advocated that an honest response be made by the use of asphalt or a simple concrete slab.10 In the above context. setts. Use of concrete block paving should be avoided in all City Centre locations. which has natural colour variation that lends itself to associating with a range of building materials. . Complementary Paving Materials 4. it is noted that there is a 200mm wide yellow/grey granite kerb type which predominates throughout the City and which provides a sense of cohesion and permanence. Vehicular Spaces 4. Recent Laganside and Belfast City Council schemes have used extensive areas of new Caithness paving. It is important that areas for pedestrians should have a good slip resistance and provide an even surface. whilst wider gauges can be effectively introduced in more generous spaces. Accordingly it is advocated that this be used as the core streetscape material within the City Centre. Care should therefore be exercised if the use of small element units such as setts or cubes is being considered. but also to ease of maintenance. Kerbs 4.11 Caithness slab paving or ‘blue slabs’ were common throughout the City until relatively recently. and continue over time to have the requisite quality of appearance. which are presently used. Examples would include granite slabs. whilst reducing ambient noise levels (concrete surfaces generate more noise than asphalt). Consistency should be established in respect of the use of coloured aggregates. brick or concrete. It is only in this way that the areas can be developed. being associated with historic streets as well as new ones. It is proposed that reclaimed or new kerbs to match should be used as a core material. timber or metal. Care should be taken not to introduce too many different materials within any one area and that selection should respond to appropriateness. Pedestrian Spaces 4. it is proposed that a range of materials be used.
This will require significant capital expenditure to re-profile the road. whilst new ones should be of such scale that they contribute positively from the outset. Trees should be planted and maintained in such a way that they can fulfil their potential stature. back to a channel line. One of the benefits of large street trees is that they impact little at ground level. If a tree cannot be planted properly. The current scarcity of grass spaces within the City Centre should be addressed through the proposals. Grass is enjoyed by large numbers of people in the City Centre. Donegall Square or High Street. but also add seasonality and scale to the street. or the Civic Spine. but also levels. . it is essential that existing mature trees be safeguarded. As with slabs. The green of leaves and grass provides a valuable aesthetic foil to hard building materials. Throughout many other areas a policy of using relatively small trees without grilles. use it extensively in good weather for sitting. managed and maintained. Street Trees and Vegetation 4. in the context of the prevalence of underground services. it is proposed that granite setts or cubes be used. 4. Future proposals should respond by the use of mature trees. but should be considered as an essential part of creating a sustainable high quality public realm.16 Planting details should be carefully considered.15 Cities need vegetation. For the latter to be the case. Designers and funding agencies should agree from the outset the importance that is to be placed on trees in a specific area. They provide the ‘green benefits’. there are a wide range of module sizes and colours of granite that can be used to provide distinctiveness to an area. in accordance with best practice techniques. who. this should be followed through by the allowance of significant funds for relocation of existing services to achieve viable pits. it is suggested that it should not be planted at all. In many areas. rather than being stunted by their growing conditions. Street trees are important components. it is advocated that a wall-to-wall design be established that addresses not only materials. If importance is high.People & Place: Public Realm Strategy for Belfast City Centre 23 such as the lanes of Cathedral Quarter. creates insubstantial visual impact and creates zones. Existing detailing of tree grilles adjacent to the City Hall are such that this potential is realised. These are maintenance liabilities and can often be associated with puddles and uneven surfaces and should be avoided. 4. which are not available for use by pedestrians. with only a trunk protruding from the surface. rather than one of ‘make do and mend’. within busy footways. affording the potential to walk below a mature canopy that adds significantly to the visual characteristics of the street.14 When designing public realm projects. as evident adjacent to the City Hall. Slabs can rarely be trafficked and should not be promoted for use in an area that is expected to sustain vehicle use. with appropriate grilles. road levels have been built up over a period of years and have led to pavements falling from the kerb. eating and relaxing.
spaces and people of interest. The Belfast Metropolitan Transport Plan and the Draft Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan have proposed transportation initiatives which would be complementary to and. such as directional signs and information panels that illuminate the history.21 An effective public transport infrastructure is essential for the well being of the City. opportunities should be identified to introduce artists to the process. thereby contributing to the overall cohesion of the City Centre. to incidental pieces. which would fundamentally underpin the development of the public realm. but as yet its introduction and appreciation have not been fully embraced. Initiatives for amenity lighting should be integrated within project proposals as they are developed. careful consideration should be given to all elements of site furniture. from civic sculptures. quality and sustainability should be prime considerations. Strategic consideration should be given to their integration with other elements of interpretation. to murals.19 Recent introductions of interpretation panels by Belfast City Council are of high quality and are useful components in the processes of orientation. audio. should be considered fully. temporary works. The following section outlines key aspects that should be given continued and more detailed consideration. but also through the colour/quality of light output. It will be through the craftsmanship and personality of an artist. As with all elements.24 People & Place: Public Realm Strategy for Belfast City Centre Lighting 4. The quality of light source should also be given strategic consideration. With each project.20 There is an increasing prevalence of public art in Belfast.17 Street lighting contributes significantly to the environment of the City. bins. This should include seats. avoiding repetition and the retention of redundant features. signs and all the other components that appear within the public realm. it is proposed that a bespoke suite of furniture be established. through the street furniture of the columns or fitments. in places. whether local or of international renown. Interpretation 4. culture and buildings. visual or whatever else. to ensure that it is kept to a functional minimum. cycle stands. that the character of the place will be brought to life. A systematic programme of renewal should be undertaken to replace the disparate styles with ones from the consolidated family. Public Art 4. Street Furniture 4. as an integrated part of the public realm. shelters. visitors and the fabric of the urban form. It is advocated that a bespoke suite of street lighting be established for the City. using white light for footways and prime retail or Civic spaces. It is proposed that public art. . As each component of the City’s public realm is designed. Pieces should cement the relationship between the citizens. Public Transport 4.18 Complementary with the street lighting. in all its forms.
It is proposed that Central Station be maintained as a valuable asset to the rail infrastructure. Whilst the principle of providing access to the centre of the City is endorsed.24 Consideration should be given to the establishment of appropriate public transport links along the line of the Green Link. Public transport penetration into the heart of the City between the stations is important. such as Hi Park. visitors and businesses. parking and public transport are required. there is little benefit to most businesses from passing cars and lorries. Concepts to reduce the incursion of through traffic into the core areas should be combined with the provision of large high profile car parks at the edges of the core. In addition it is proposed to develop a new station to the north at Gamble Street. Whilst effective service access. The potential for the Dublin train to arrive there rather than at Central Station should be considered. which has bus.23 The existing and currently ordered rolling stock is not suited to short stop services. These may include a rapid transit system linking the east and west via Wellington Place/Chichester Street and the establishment of a loop. providing excellent access to Lanyon Place.26 One of the central objectives is to reduce severance within the core areas. Private and Commercial Vehicles 4. which encourages vehicle ingress to core areas. along Grosvenor Road. Car parks should be developed in locations that aid access and which are immediately adjacent to the loop and preferably to the outside of it. which should be integrated with bus facilities. Consideration should be given to the redevelopment of ones that compromise this concept. it is advocated that other viable alternatives be considered. Most businesses within the core areas rely on footfall for their livelihood. 4. . Currently City Bus services operate to and from Donegall Square with the result that this prime Civic Space is dominated by parked and moving buses. Consideration should be given to the future introduction of trains that could service an increased number of halts at increased frequency. Key areas in this respect are associated with Donegall Square and also links to the River across Victoria and Oxford Streets.People & Place: Public Realm Strategy for Belfast City Centre 25 4. which uses Queen Street and Castle Street/High Street. for shoppers.22 It is proposed that the existing Great Victoria Street Station be consolidated as an integrated public transport interchange. 4. between Great Victoria Street Station and the Gasworks and also to connections with the proposed EWay and other priority corridors. At such a time consideration should be given to the potential to establish halts at the Gasworks and Odyssey. Priority corridors to the west. 4. through the potential relocation of the current Laganside Bus Centre. train and parking provision. the north along Corporation Street (accessing the proposed Gamble Street Station) and to the south along Botanic Avenue are advocated.25 The current vehicular dominance within the core areas undermines the quality of environment.
by inappropriate fascias and signage. It is proposed that stationary buses be removed from Donegall Square north. Proposals of international 5.1 Leading from Donegall Square. Donegall Square 5. The Draft BMAP proposes to extend the City Centre’s prime retail frontage from Donegall Place along Royal Avenue to the junction of North Street thus emphasising the importance of the civic spine. and from the commercial Linen Quarter. east and west and most if not all circulation displaced to adjacent streets. The streetscape should be of the highest quality. the principal civic space. Rationalisation of public transport and private vehicle movements should be implemented to reduce severance. promoting a prestige image that supports the proposed building uses. lead to it isolating the retail core to the north. It should integrate the City sectors on each side. information points and an opportunity to pause along the route can be established. Street lighting and the proposed introduction of associated banners would coherently link the sections of the Spine and provide opportunities for seasonal or event related branding. It is proposed that hubs of activity be focused at the nodes. inaccessible. particularly adjacent to Castle Court.5 The City Hall is an impressive landmark building for the City.26 People & Place: Public Realm Strategy for Belfast City Centre SECTION 5: PUBLIC REALM IMPROVEMENT PROPOSALS The Civic Spine 5. It is proposed that as part of the comprehensive regeneration of Donegall Square that consideration be given to the role of the City Hall.4 The importance of Donegall Square cannot be overemphasised. through its building uses and public realm. Obstructions should be kept to a minimum to ensure that the street environments maximise their potential use by people. These locations provide an opportunity to reflect issues of heritage and culture. Consideration should be given to the architectural treatment of building facades. which responds to the existing high footfall.3 . A series of nodes would be established along the route to create high points and emphasise special characteristics. or use. It is proposed that Donegall Square should be redeveloped to provide an icon setting for the City’s icon building. and with perimeter railings that keep people at a distance. in conjunction with reduced vehicular prominence. It is. Such places would include Castle Place junction. it is proposed to establish a principal spine. This Spine should extend to the north along Royal Avenue/Donegall Place. from the Dublin Road/ Bedford Street area to the south. however.2 It is proposed that the civic scale of the Spine be complemented by appropriate active building uses. Generous tree lined footways are proposed. The Draft BMAP has designated Donegall Square as a Local Landscape Policy Area. There are many fine buildings that are compromised individually and in their relationship with the rest of the street. 5. with little public permeability. where non-permanent kiosks. 5. Currently the building uses and dominance of buses and other vehicles around the City Hall.
Lanyon Place Lanyon Place has set benchmark standards in respect of quality of public realm materials. potentially arising from a design competition for the Square should create usable space in front of the City Hall. Opportunities to create direct connections from the station into the public realm should be considered. where large numbers of people gathered. and those that would compromise the potential of the Square.9 City Spaces 5. whilst creating a natural focus for the City and its civic activities. The design of the public realm should be of the highest quality. using high quality materials and detailing appropriate to this focal location. It would address issues of severance and division. detailing and maintenance. to bring activity to the area. but which provides a setting of exceptional quality for the City’s premier building. Visual and physical links between the City Centre to the west and the port to the east are essential ingredients. Future opportunities to create permeability to the riverside should be considered in the vicinity of the Hilton . to obviate the current difficulties of arriving by train at the ‘wrong side’ of East Bridge Street. the Albert Clock and a number of other fine and 5. rather than merely providing a high quality setting for prestigious buildings. and consequently Northern Ireland.10 It is advocated that consideration be given to the relationship of Lanyon Place with the River and Central Station. Introducing changes in building use would enhance the profile of the Square. and which relate to the character of adjacent City Quarters. facilitate linkages and would target a missing section of the retail market. and that a scheme be implemented that is worthy of the accolade of principal civic space. at the confluence of the Rivers Lagan and Farset. whilst being held in a strong relationship with Donegall Square at the heart. Relating to the magnificent Customs House. 5. However. this civic space is located at the historic birthplace of the City. the River and City Centre to the west should be promoted. Custom House Square Custom House Square is the most important of these City Spaces. historic buildings.7 A number of existing and potential public spaces have a responsibility to the City as a whole and relate to the City Routes. Care will be required to determine the existing elements that should be retained. This may be facilitated by a comprehensive review and potential redevelopment of the Maysfield Leisure Centre and adjacent land and properties. it is important that the debate is held. suitable for large gatherings of people. These should fulfil functions which are varied and complementary with each other.8 5.6 Undoubtedly there will be great debate in relation to many of the issues of design associated with Donegall Square but for the benefit of the City as a whole. its adjacent buildings and the surrounding spaces. Traditionally the steps of the Custom House were used as a ‘speakers corner’. the management of the public realm could be further enhanced and it is recommended that consideration be given to development in conjunction with the Waterfront Hall and future buildings. 5. Work on Donegall Square would provide high impact benefits to the City as a whole.People & Place: Public Realm Strategy for Belfast City Centre 27 acclaim. A dynamic relationship between the Waterfront Hall. Laganside Corporation has implemented public realm improvement in Custom House Square achieving a space of international standard which complements Donegall Square and provides Belfast with the usable space that it needs.
The space would terminate the Waterfront Boulevard and provide a setting for the Harbour Commissioners office. it is advocated that a more public. The space would benefit from good sunlight aspects and activity generated by the continuation of the Riverside Walkway and the vibrancy that would be introduced with new buildings. restaurants. it would also provide a strong relationship between the two sides of the River. but would benefit from increased emphasis to the riverside aspect in response to the proposed development of the Boulevard and bridge. The Draft BMAP has proposed the designation of this area as a Local Landscape Policy Area.14 The existing open space in front of ‘Inst’ is of strategic importance. Through the development of a new bridge connection to Odyssey. Proposed buildings would include a hotel. The existing setting for the Odyssey complex is of high quality. with built forms and uses. active use be considered for this exceptionally fine building. and niche sector shopping. Queen’s Quay 5.28 People & Place: Public Realm Strategy for Belfast City Centre Hotel and BT office. which would connect with the proposed Gamble Street Rail Halt. working with the adjacent buildings to terminate the westwards vista along Chichester Street/Wellington Place. . Royal Belfast Academical Institution (RBAI) 5. Odyssey Plaza 5. Masterplan proposals for the area have been developed by Laganside Corporation. Corporation Square 5. Corporation Square should complement substantial built development that would consolidate. Corporation Square will facilitate the integration of the Clarendon area with the City Centre. The space should be retained and opportunities should be promoted to facilitate links to the west.12 Complementing Corporation Square to the west. As with the Custom House. the integration of Clarendon with the City Centre to the south and west. A ‘missing’ radial link is proposed between Cathedral Quarter and Corporation Square.13 A premier riverside space is proposed that will complement Lanyon Place and relate to the proposed Odyssey Boulevard in the same way that Lanyon Place relates to the Waterfront Boulevard. Odyssey Plaza should provide an appropriate northern termination of the Odyssey Boulevard and landing point for the proposed bridge link.11 It is proposed to develop Corporation Square as the northern-most City space. whilst maintaining a secure perimeter to the school property. as well as residential and commercial premises to consolidate the density and therefore activation. The implementation and maintenance standards that have been set should be continued as development of remaining sites is completed.
advocated that measures could and should be promoted in respect of the large surface car parks. Work to the Square would require extensive architectural and development intervention to complement the public realm. isolate it within the space.17 St. along with parked cars which flank the building. The area is typified by brick-built warehouse style premises and relatively narrow streets and lanes. though high profile dereliction and expanses of car parks contributing . Laganside initiatives are starting to give credibility to this aspiration. This will be particularly significant as sites to the north and east are developed. It is. and through the proposed development of the Talbot Street Arts Centre.18 The proposed Talbot Street Development will provide an important destination within the area and add critical mass to the cultural identity. The Cathedral’s perimeter walls and railings.16 This distinctive area of the City Centre was designated a Conservation Area by the Department of the Environment. which would provide tangible evidence of progress and critical mass to the concept. The area has been branded as the cultural quarter for the City.15 It is considered that Bank Square is not functioning as a public space. including its setting. Experience of cultural quarters elsewhere indicates that establishment cannot be artificially hurried. but that the benefits are worth persevering for. To deliver the required Bank Square 5. Extensive lengths of settled streets contribute to the historic appearance. The relationship of the Cathedral to the space in which it sits could be significantly enhanced by the removal of these elements and the extension of high quality surfaces to the line of the proposed and existing buildings which define the space. due to its historic importance. 5.People & Place: Public Realm Strategy for Belfast City Centre 29 little vitality to the area and have led to concerns being expressed that the area is not experiencing sufficient change quickly enough. however. Anne’s Cathedral is the focus for the area and has recently been the subject of significant enhancement work. 5. DSD will bring forward proposals for the redevelopment of Bank Square as part of its masterplanning exercise underway in the area. Cathedral Quarter 5.
It has the potential to function as the Neighbourhood space for the Quarter. Bridge Street/Four Corners 5. Commercial Court and Cotton Court. In this context the existing Northern Whig building is an important anchor. including Gordon Street. whilst engaging strongly with the Cathedral precinct. but is also an important link between Cathedral Quarter and the Retail Core. whilst contributing positively to its identity. including the proposed Victoria Square development to the south of High Street. It is a fine building that could contribute more significantly to the vitality of the area. featuring high quality materials. Writers’ Square 5. which is now not operational. 5.21 Laganside Corporation has embarked on a programme of streetscape improvement projects. Streetscape improvements in Waring Street have been implemented with Laganside working in partnership with DSD to ensure that a comprehensive scheme is delivered. If the space is to succeed. The masterplanning exercise currently being undertaken by DSD will take account of these issues. Whilst the redesign process has resulted in the creation of a high quality space. with the potential connection to Corporation Square via the Gamble . along with appropriate building uses. and in fact has zones that are intended to keep the public at a distance from adjacent premises. this is a matter that requires urgent attention. as has been proved by its use as a temporary theatre venue. but currently lacks vitality. Donegall Street and Waring Street and is of historic significance. These will facilitate the movement of people throughout the area.30 People & Place: Public Realm Strategy for Belfast City Centre benefits to the Quarter and City. this development should be of international acclaim and should establish a street frontage to the Dunbar Link. with the proposed mixed-use development at the corner of Donegall Street with Waring Street also pivotal. Hill Street.19 To the southwest of the Cathedral is Writers’ Square. Specialist/niche sector retail would contribute positively to the arts and cultural identity of the area. At the centre of the area is the existing Northern Bank. It is advocated that this area be developed. Links to the west along Talbot Street.20 The Four Corners is the junction of Bridge Street with North Street. It is important that such initiatives are continued by DSD through to Bridge Street in order that the area can be developed comprehensively. it remains lacking in activated frontages.
Large buildings. Linenhall Street. with the termination at the Ormeau Baths Gallery and Green Link to the south. If it is not possible to engage fully with each of the buildings that interface with the . many of which were built in support of the linen industry command wide gridiron streets. Blackstaff Square 5. but also provide strong links which radiate from it. Proposals require to address the relationship of the buildings with the space. It is proposed however.25 It is proposed that Blackstaff Square should be developed as a neighbourhood space. and where possible to displace them. Design proposals should seek to minimise the impact of vehicles on the area. Malachy’s. It is therefore advocated that the space be developed in parallel with the adjacent premises. North Queen Street and via York Street to Henry Street should all be developed to promote access and integration. carrying out changes to their buildings to benefit the space and positively managing its uses.24 The public realm of the area should provide a focal setting for St.People & Place: Public Realm Strategy for Belfast City Centre 31 Street Railway Station and the Waring Street link to Custom House Square are other key components of maximising the potential of Cathedral Quarter. it should provide an important link to the west and north. including those which cross Cromac Street to the Markets.22 Whilst Cathedral Quarter does not have a direct interface with residential communities. through its Conservation Area status. 5. Currently. that the Quarter should have St Malachy’s Church as its focus. on land that was formerly the millpond. The Church is an important visual landmark for the entire area and is also a social focus for the residential community to the east and of the Markets community beyond. 5. Most. and to create an environment with an enhanced sense of security. Routes to Clifton Street. Linenhall Square and the link along Linenhall Street West should complement these. As with Bank Square. and that the business community of the area be encouraged to participate fully. To the east a small zone of housing imposes a dramatic change in scale.23 This Quarter has been recognised as being of historic significance. however. most properties present their ‘back doors’ and service elevations to the space and contribute little vitality to it. Linenhall Street runs north-south through the area. Linen Quarter 5. it is noted that the successful delivery of the regeneration of this area is particularly challenging. The existing Blackstaff Square has become misused and is of concern to adjacent businesses. are the type which could benefit from a positive relationship with a high quality public space.
providing controlled opportunities for outdoor entertainment and dining. Some. whilst they are in a relatively poor state of repair. Proposals for the development of the area will be brought forward by DSD as part of its masterplanning exercise in the area. Library Street and Little Donegall Street combined with the proposed open space and lanes running to either side are particularly important in this respect. The area has experienced social tensions associated with its location at the threshold of the City.28 From the Civic Spine. High Street/Castle Street 5. City Routes 5. it is advocated that consideration be given to alternative approaches. The area has a strong framework of streets and existing buildings. Library Quarter 5. These links would integrate the Spine with the Riverside and with the City Quarters. which will be of benefit to Library Quarter.27 This part of the City has considerable existing dereliction and urban decay.32 People & Place: Public Realm Strategy for Belfast City Centre Square. close to residential communities. This would release significant space for positive . 5. yet is immediately adjacent to Castle Court. Management of these areas should capitalise on the leisure identity of the area. with bus and service access retained. have significant potential. It is proposed that through traffic be displaced. which introduce new development to activate the space and the consequent reduction in the size of the space itself. North Street and Donegall Street should be developed to facilitate links to Cathedral Quarter and the communities to the west.29 The historic importance of the High Street as well as its strategic connections should be emphasised in its establishment as a primary street within the City Centre. The streetscapes of Library Quarter should be developed to complement the character of the area and promote its regeneration.26 It is proposed that the existing space be developed in conjunction with new spaces to the south. Land and building uses do little to counter the atmosphere of apprehension associated with the area. Development of the area to the north of Castle Court should provide an improved street frontage to North Street. it is proposed to establish a series of City Routes that will facilitate pedestrian movement throughout the City Centre. which would in turn provide links with adjacent areas. which enjoys some of the highest retail footfall counts.
Chichester Street and May Street 5.31 To the east. The kiosks and other elements should reflect something of the former presence of the Farset River. both in terms of quality of building and appropriateness of use. This long. linking with complementary neighbourhood renewal initiatives in the adjacent areas. 5. in the foreseeable future and accordingly. providing valuable and .34 Security measures associated with the Courts should be addressed with the objective of improving visual permeability and the cohesion of the route.30 Development of the historic entries to the south and Bridge Street and the other streets to the north should be promoted to facilitate linkage between the retail core and Victoria Square and Cathedral Quarter respectively. Use of water jets as proposed at Custom House Square may be appropriate. linking with the Waterfront and Odyssey Boulevards. 5. A sequence of spaces would be linked. particularly with regard to the investor-led retail components. beneath the shelter of a mature canopy of trees. particularly in respect of north-south movement between the retail core and the Dublin Road/Bedford Street areas and the Linen Quarter.People & Place: Public Realm Strategy for Belfast City Centre 33 use. To the west. This will play a substantive part in the reinforcement of city communities as outlined in the Belfast City Centre Regeneration Policy Statement. Regeneration of the flanking buildings should be promoted. east-west link should be established as a principal route of access to the City Centre for use by the communities of the east and west. In this respect no new major retail development is anticipated in the southwest quadrant of the retail core. Both streets currently carry heavy traffic volumes and cause significant severance. seating and play facilities. including Custom House Square. Building redevelopment should be pursued to create active ground floor frontages. DSD. It is proposed that a zone in the centre of High Street be established with kiosks. 5.32 The Belfast City Centre Regeneration Policy Statement places emphasis on the orderly delivery of regeneration initiatives. it is proposed that enhancements to the public realm should be used to underpin that which presently exists. Donegall Quay. Queen’s Quay. The proposed development of Victoria Square will be of significant benefit in this respect. which link the City’s primary civic buildings of the City Hall and the Waterfront Hall. It is advocated that consideration should be given to the rationalisation of vehicular movement and public transport throughout the core areas. There are sections of the street elevations that are particularly poor. adjacent to Castle Street. Belfast City Council and Belfast City Centre Management Company are working on a coordinated public realm improvement project for the historic entries to commence in March 2005. an opportunity exists to enhance the route across the River at the Lagan Weir. 5.33 These are two complementary civic streets. Castle Place and a gateway space at College Avenue. ‘Inst’ provides punctuation.
which would.34 People & Place: Public Realm Strategy for Belfast City Centre appropriate ground floor uses. should become a complementary partner to the Waterfront Boulevard. as well as a critical mass reason for people to go to the end of Chichester Street and then venture beyond to the River. whilst significantly shorter. This. Increased building activation in the area is advocated. whilst to the east.35 The link from Clarendon at the north to East Bridge Street at the south is at present disparate in character and lacks legibility around the Queen Elizabeth Bridge and Queen’s Bridge. Custom House Square and Lanyon Place. Waterfront Boulevard 5. A gallery of banners is proposed which would feature community art initiatives. To the east. in contrast. The strong relationship with the River will be the key to the experience of the Boulevard. Odyssey Boulevard 5. feature extensive tree planting and soft landscape. larger buildings with slightly less regular footprints and generous spaces between them. These would be at relatively close centres creating a strong visual cohesion. this would be consolidated as part of the strongly vegetated River corridor. within a tightly controlled colour spectrum that would graduate through the colours of the rainbow from one end to the other. promoting views to the River should be consolidated. such that there is a distinction between it and the streets and spaces immediately to either side. It is proposed to rationalise the street form and to establish a Boulevard that links the City Spaces of Corporation Square. Laganside Corporation is currently undertaking phased implementation of the proposals for the Boulevard. The Draft BMAP has proposed that the area adjacent to Victoria Street/ Oxford Street should be designated as an area of townscape character. It is proposed that the built form to the west of the Boulevard should provide a strong edge to the route. An exciting sense of approach to the Odyssey .36 It is proposed that the existing Station Street flyover be removed and the street form from Odyssey to Bridge End be rationalised. It is proposed that no trees be introduced as part of the Boulevard. both in terms of new and existing properties. in association with corporate art. It is proposed that a high quality streetscape be implemented and that the introduction of lighting columns with banner attachments be used. This could be used positively to brand the civic activities and events at the City Hall and Waterfront Hall.
The existing open space at the corner of York Street and Donegall Street compounds these issues. with extensive areas of dense vegetation and dead space. Castle Place Corn Market and William Street South. Development of land to the north of Castle Court will also have a major impact. but which are also appropriate for the heavy use to which they are subjected. Fountain Street. and existing and future building uses should be developed to maximise the vitality of the area. It is proposed that the operation of these services should be reviewed alongside the implementation of this strategy. The Retail Core 5. The Victoria Square development will have a significant impact on this area. Queen Street and the series of entries and arcades particularly linking with High Street.39 Draft BMAP has outlined the Primary Retail Core based around the main Donegall Place/Royal Avenue retail spine.40 Large institutional building frontages and a wide carriageway dominate York Street.37 It is proposed that the streets and lanes to either side of Donegall Place be developed. which is an extension of the Newtownards Road. Castle Lane. It extends westwards toward Millfield/College Avenue/Bridge Street/Church Lane/Victoria Street and also includes areas immediately to the east and west of the City Hall. This encompasses Donegall Square North/Donegall Place. Ann Street. and should improve integration with the Library Quarter to the north and with the residential communities to the west. Berry Street. It is proposed that Arthur Square should be developed as the focus of the southeastern quadrant. Montgomery Street. 5. trade waste collection and service vehicle access are all ones that impact significantly on the core retail area. It will be important that the streetscapes throughout the area are developed to facilitate movement of people between these areas. This area will become increasingly important as the ‘gateway’ to Victoria Square. High quality. Key streetscape phases within this zone include Lombard Street. with the . It also extends the Primary Retail Frontage in Belfast City Centre. a procession of banners is proposed. It is important that these connections are improved to facilitate integration of these communities with the City Centre. as a counterbalance to Castle Court. As with the Waterfront Boulevard.People & Place: Public Realm Strategy for Belfast City Centre 35 should be established. providing an improved quality of environment within the existing busy retail area. Each is important to the overall effectiveness of the area. particularly at Bridge End. York Street 5. The existing dated bandstand provides a poor quality image and in fact inhibits appropriate movement and use of the area. Church Lane. which combine to undermine its use and activity. with generous spaces between them.38 Management issues of street cleansing. ensuring that the benefits of increased footfall are experienced as widely as possible. 5. Design and management proposals should be established which reduce obstructions to the prime function of the area. and should be beneficial in establishing a critical mass of high quality retail to the southeast. Rosemary Street. which is to support the retail sector. Arthur Street. with a strong built edge to the east and larger footprint buildings to the west. It is proposed that consideration be given to the regeneration of the area. Odyssey Boulevard provides an interface with links to the east Belfast communities. Royal Avenue. durable materials should be used which convey a sense of permanence.
Dublin Road 5. through dialogue with DRD’s Roads Service. It is proposed that the buildings and streetscape be developed as a key component of City Linkage. It is currently in a poor physical state. To the south this should integrate development of street frontage with retail at ground floor and with links to the adjacent Castle Court. Cathedral Way/Royal Avenue 5. Strong street frontages should be established in conjunction with enhanced links through the site and a combination of courtyards. It is . DSD will bring forward development proposals for this area as part of its masterplanning exercise underway in the South East Quarter. such as Cathedral Quarter. Redevelopment of the University of Ulster campus and Cathedral Gardens should be encouraged and guided to ensure that they maximise the potential liveliness that student activities can bring to the area. This is particularly evident throughout the daytime. with the potential for this to function more prominently as the public transport corridor.36 People & Place: Public Realm Strategy for Belfast City Centre objective of renewing its City functions. whilst associated with some social problems. functions largely in isolation of other areas. Late evening activity in the area is significant and is something. but also between the City Centre and the residential communities to the west.43 This area has developed an identity associated with leisure. North Street 5. The ‘Golden Mile’ 5.41 North Street provides an important interface between the retail core to the south and Library Quarter to the north. In this respect the links through Donegall Square. its role in this area will be particularly prominent. but also through the introduction of buildings that activate the streets after the shops have closed. which. but includes a number of buildings of architectural merit. is generally considered to be an asset that should be consolidated upon. with a considerable number of pubs. It has been noted that this area. clubs and restaurants. The physical environment of the Golden Mile area is relatively poor and dominated by vehicles.44 Shaftesbury Square punctuates the southern gateway to the City Centre. Careful consideration should be given. Whilst lighting will play an important part in all of the proposed public realm developments.45 This lively area associated with leisure activities should be more closely linked with the rest of the City Centre. when there are fewer people present. Opportunities to reduce vehicle volumes along the City Route of Dublin Road should be considered. not only in the quality of their public realm. despite the emerging focuses elsewhere in the City. to determine the potential to reduce vehicle and pedestrian conflict in this area. particularly at night.42 At the interface between the Retail Core and Cathedral Quarter is Lower Garfield Street and adjacent blocks. 5. linking with the proposed Super Route from the south. whilst to the north it should become part of the regeneration of Library Quarter. Donegall Place and High Street should be improved. and is an aspect that should be addressed.
as exist adjacent to the Europa Hotel. 5. It is proposed that the streetscape of this link be developed.46 The land to the west of Great Victoria Street has significant problems. The potential to create a prominent station building with grand plaza that could provide the required focus for the area should be explored. DSD will work in partnership with the Arterial Routes Partnership to ensure the development of a cohesive approach to strengthen routes to the City Centre from the neighbourhoods. Opportunities to consolidate the residential areas and indeed facilitate their extension towards the City Centre. 5. should be developed. It is advocated that Great Victoria Street. which would complement the adjacent ongoing development of the Lincoln Centre. in the form of apartments or living over the shops. Rationalisation of traffic should be considered. Millfield and Carrick Hill (which are a continuation of the same road). It is proposed that the station development could combine with the redevelopment of the landmark Whitehall Tobacco Factory and the Green Link. should combine with initiatives to encourage the reestablishment of the streets to the west. which are currently ‘behind’ the arriving passengers. These should provide opportunities for shop and office developments alongside the main arterial routes. with street form and function. to provide a significant catalyst to the regeneration of this area. and therefore do not experience good footfall.49 As part of the process of enhancing the public realm it is advocated that best practice urban design should be promoted. associated with derelict land. via Linenhall Street West. . Fisherwick Place. This would facilitate the regeneration of adjacent blocks.48 This south western quarter contains pockets of residential communities and thresholds to more substantial community areas beyond the Westlink. inappropriate building and land uses and lack of integration with the City Centre or adjacent residential communities.People & Place: Public Realm Strategy for Belfast City Centre 37 proposed that this be done by developing a City Route between Shaftesbury Square and the Civic Spine. turn their backs on it. which provides strong links that facilitate integration of the neighbouring communities with the City Centre. A collaborative Arterial Routes Partnership led by Belfast City Council and consisting of Belfast Area Partnership Boards. As part of the process of enhancing the social environment. Connectivity To The City Centre Neighbourhoods 5. it is advocated that developments should be promoted which ‘blur’ some of the edges. to complement the active building uses. it is evident that this can be a street for people to use and enjoy despite the volume of vehicles. The Crown Bar and Robinson’s Bar. Northern Ireland Housing Executive and Belfast Regeneration Office has been established to take forward projects to enhance the vitality of the main routes and provide a visual statement about the City’s character. Currently there are sections that have little activation and indeed many of the buildings. which should and could address the street. whilst promoting this route for public transport. where possible. whilst continuing to function as a heavily trafficked route. it is proposed that regeneration and development should be focused on Great Victoria Street Station. College Avenue. Great Victoria Street 5. Given appropriate uses and links. with the objective of reducing traffic volumes.47 To the west.
there are times when the sector implements elements of public realm.4 6.2 The need for a high quality public realm has been recognised by government through the Belfast City Centre Regeneration Policy Statement. carried out by The Paul Hogarth Company. Those who live. though Laganside Corporation has been working to a strategy within their sector of the City. The previous sections of the strategy have addressed the form of the public realm and how it may most appropriately be developed. as it provides an amenity for the City as a whole.38 People & Place: Public Realm Strategy for Belfast City Centre SECTION 6: MAINTENANCE AND MANAGEMENT . and other areas of activity. it is a public realm founded on an understanding of the City. rather 6. work and visit the City do not see administrative red lines on the ground. It is advocated that a fundamental reform of the implementation structures be considered. or have focused on outlying communities. its development. Currently the public realm is implemented by a number of core bodies. but they are aware that some areas have been the subject of more focused investment and have resulted in improved standards of public realm than others. how it works and can be developed. DSD’s vesting powers are a valuable attribute that will be strategically used as part of an integrated approach to regeneration. concluded that the existing urban form.3 . be needs driven and knowledge led. This contribution is valuable. Belfast City Council has demonstrated through the Gasworks Site. Laganside Corporation in particular have undertaken some significant elements of work and have an ongoing programme. This in turn has been reflected by significant investment in those areas by the private sector. Recently projects have largely been relatively small-scale and low-key. management and maintenance are currently fragmented.THE NEED FOR CHANGE 6. To date implementation has been piecemeal. The reality is that the implementation of the public realm is and should remain the responsibility of the public sector. This results in Belfast City Centre failing to fulfil its potential. The Department’s commitment to the Victoria Square development will contribute substantively to City Centre regeneration and there is a focus through the Belfast City Centre Regeneration Policy Statement to investment in public realm works that will underpin key principles. its contribution to delivering high quality public realm infrastructure. It is not a cosmetic treatment that is required. and must be approached holistically.5 6. DSD has undertaken public realm work throughout the City. It is clear that the success of the City Centre and its public realm relies on the successful combination of numerous facets. In particular. but of more significance is the requirement for developers to bring forward the right buildings in the right locations. The following sections of this strategy outline mechanisms that can and should be implemented in order to respond positively to this challenge. that will result in the City being treated as a cohesive entity. Without an effective delivery mechanism such concepts will have limited effect. Whilst the sector’s emphasis will predominantly be on the built form of the City. The contribution of the private sector should not be underestimated. The public realm must sustainably enhance the economic and social vitality of the City Centre. rather.1 Appraisal work and consultations. 6.
with shelters and heaters used to counter the prevailing climate and encourage people to use street-side tables and chairs for outdoor eating. Management of the spaces needs the entrepreneurial spirit of those who see opportunities. cappuccino kiosks or whatever else. along with the efforts of private promoters. There are genuine opportunities for economic activity to be generated from the spaces themselves. whether that be office workers wanting to eat lunch in an open attractive environment. provided that they are well managed and co-ordinated to ensure that they do not compromise the quality of the space and the core reason for people to be there. It should respond to the demands of those who would wish to use it. not only generate revenue but. It is proposed that significant benefits may accrue from the integration of maintenance. opportunities to sell food and drink. which states that the carriageway and footway are not to be obstructed with such elements. whilst adding an extra dimension through its own contribution is one which most would welcome. management and delivery functions and this proposal should be explored by government. but may be replaced by some other hobby in the future. often very successful events. Equally.6 There is currently little proactive coordinated management of the public space in Belfast City Centre. This issue embraces wideranging and complex issues relating to public liability. A more proactive approach. The private sector has on occasions tried to be innovative in its use of the public realm. if a place is busy with people for whatever reason. This potential has been clearly demonstrated by Belfast City Council and Laganside Corporation undertaking occasional. holds the potential to offer economic and social benefits to the City by facilitating a range of activities including staged events. with promoters paying for the privilege of using somewhere like Donegall Square or Custom House Square for a large show or the launch of a new product. employment practices and entrepreneurialism. The vision of the City’s public realm becoming a vibrant one that supports the core functions of retail and commerce. Similarly. street theatre. whether for major performances. visitors seeking to understand the place better or skateboarders who are here today. These legal statutes are intended to prevent abuse of the public realm. Problems also exist in relation to laws regarding drinking and sale of alcohol outdoors. This has at times fallen foul of legislation. also add to the 6.7 vitality of a place. Management Of The Public Realm 6. flower stalls. It is proposed that consideration should be given to refinement of the laws to enable positive uses to be permitted. stalls and the like can. promotional events. fairs. in line with Great 6. Whilst the complexity of the matter is daunting. The public realm presents a wealth of opportunities that can be capitalised upon. it is a challenge that the City must endeavour to meet. No individual or organisation currently takes responsibility for making Belfast a ‘twenty-four seven’ environment that is enjoyed by its citizens and visitors alike.People & Place: Public Realm Strategy for Belfast City Centre 39 than parcels of land. it is proposed that the Roads and Highways legislation be reviewed. These tend to be large scale ‘one off’ operations and are not supported by a raft of everyday occurrences of note.8 . it is advocated that government and the private sector should address the current arrangements for the maintenance and management of the City’s public realm which are currently fragmented and lack coordination of resources. In the context of the above.
Where utility renewal work is positively programmed. 6. opportunities may appropriately be taken to undertake more comprehensive public realm works and as such ‘partnering’ established between the public and private sector to the betterment of the whole. gritting of roads (though there is no such obligation to the footways). Roads Service has statutory responsibility for ensuring that the adopted areas of road and footway are maintained in a safe condition. 6. weeding pavements and caring for all trees and vegetation within those zones. lighting. This is currently an option that is not available through existing legislation. In this way new or relocated services can be installed in preferable locations that will ultimately reduce costs to the public realm . which are consistent with principles of developing and sustaining high quality public realm and its uses.40 People & Place: Public Realm Strategy for Belfast City Centre Britain with the intention of facilitating the temporary closure of streets for carnivals. Control of the street trading operations also falls within their remit. This. These are currently uncontrolled with collections taking place at unrestricted times. Belfast City Council has a responsibility to sweep the streets and footways. frequently leads to the obstruction of prime retail streets within the shopping core. rather than reactive. combined with similar problems with service / delivery vehicles. This includes repair of surfaces. It is important that wherever possible renewal work should be scheduled in advance of the proposed high quality finishes. Maintenance of the Public Realm 6.9 Existing maintenance responsibilities for the City’s public realm are shared by a number of public and private sector bodies. parties and other events that could contribute positively to the life of the City.10 Many of the business premises have contracts with private operators for the removal of trade waste.11 One of the primary disturbances to the floorscape of the public realm is caused by the activities of utility services. Statutes and legal frameworks should be established.
both financially and logistically. Blackstaff Square and Writers’ Square have had chequered backgrounds of responsibility. . consideration should be given to the establishment of a skill base of personnel. With issues of vandalism and liabilities. It will also contribute to economic growth by attracting visitors and providing a suitable location for inward investment. Whilst the diligence of those concerned is not in question. Through this. DRD Roads Service and the private sector to fully address the issues that have been outlined above concerning management and maintenance issues to ensure that the potential of the public realm is fully realised and its attractiveness protected. particularly knowledge based and creative industries. The Draft BMA Urban Environment Strategy draws on similar urban design principles enshrined in current DSD policy documents including the Belfast City Centre Regeneration Policy Statement and the Belfast City Centre Public Realm Strategy. which maintains the area to a particularly high standard. Improved co-ordination of ongoing and often essential utility works after completion of the public realm should be promoted. the overall effectiveness of the system is. but not all of the public realm is adopted and is therefore the responsibility of Roads Service.12 Each of the parties who contribute to the maintenance of the public realm operates largely independently of the others and usually within defined parameters. which is almost inevitable given that those who look after the spaces do not have combined powers to create revenue streams from the public realm itself that can balance the books. This is an unfortunately biased view. the public realm has been considered by many as being a burden. By comparison Lanyon Place operates a private management company. increasing civic pride and promoting a sense of place. 6. At the heart of the issue of maintenance of the public realm is the sense of ownership.People & Place: Public Realm Strategy for Belfast City Centre 41 work itself. In the longer term consideration should be given as to how that the maintenance and management systems might be restructured to consolidate the two functions of maintenance and revenue generation in a way that is currently not possible. It is currently viewed as a liability that only those who are obliged are prepared to engage with. potentially through the Northern Ireland Road Authority and Utilities Committee. In the short-term it is proposed that principles and standards of maintenance be established. 6. The Planning Framework 6.13 DSD will work with Belfast City Council. appropriately trained in the use of high quality materials and available for reinstatement as well as new works. within a co-ordinated plan to which all relevant parties can subscribe. Much.14 The Draft Belfast Metropolitan Area Urban Environment Strategy promotes a welldesigned and vibrant metropolitan urban area which will play an important role in enhancing the quality of life.
Priorities will change along with the details for individual areas. but unless the City and those committed to its enhancement and development take hold of a cohesive vision and embark on its delivery.2 In considering the phasing of improvement programmes. as well as financial reasons. It is noted that a number of projects have been or are in the process of being implemented. whilst Laganside Corporation have earmarked others within its Corporate Plan. the strategy provides a long-term vision. 7. For practical.3 . DSD proposes to take forward the implementation of the proposed improvement projects over a period of 5 to 10 years subject to the outcome of economic appraisal. whenever possible. Costs do not provide for projected inflation.1 As previously outlined. delivery will take a number of years. The following provides a project managed approach and funding profile that could be established to achieve significant impact within the public realm of the City. cognizance should be taken of known and future major regeneration proposals such as the Victoria Square Scheme. status quo will prevail to the detriment of all. In this context. Costs in the table that follows are based on rates that are appropriate in February 2005. opportunities to secure budgets should be taken.42 People & Place: Public Realm Strategy for Belfast City Centre SECTION 7: PUBLIC REALM IMPROVEMENT PROJECT IMPLEMENTATION PLAN 7. the availability of funding and meeting planning legislative requirements. with the intention of working in a co-coordinated way towards the overall vision. VAT or professional fees within these figures over the period of implementation of this Strategy. 7.
L good Usage/Profile – H where there is an existing high footfall.8 £3. M where the Quarter will be benefited and L where the benefit is more localised.6 £3.3 £0.7 £1 £1.1 £5.5* £7. Malachy’s Ormeau Avenue Queen’s Quay Lower Chichester Street Upper Chichester Street May Street Ormeau Baths Gallery Linenhall Street Linenhall Square Linenhall Quarter Square Library Quarter Streetscape H H H M H H M H H H H H H H H H H H M M H H M M M H H H H H H H H H H H M M H L H H H L H M H M M M M H M M M M L L H H H M H H H M M H M H H H M H H H M M H H H H M H H M M H H M H H M M H H H H H M H M £4. M average and L low (note this does not reflect potential) Impact – H where the City and wider vision will be positively benefited. M average.1 £1. .2 £4.8* £3.4 £2.3 £3.6 *Denotes potential contribution by Laganside Corporation Basis for Prioritisation: Existing Quality – H where the exisiting environment is poor.4* £1.People & Place: Public Realm Strategy for Belfast City Centre 43 FUNDING PROFILE TABLE Location Existing Condition Profile/Usage Impact Indicative Costings £m Cathedral Quarter Streetscapes Hill Street Waring Street Donegall Street North Street Four Corners Core Retail Area Streetscapes Lombard Street Rosemary Street Ann Street Bridge Street Castle Lane Castle Street Fountain Street High Street Entries Blackstaff square Custom House Square Bank Square Donegall Square High Street Donegall Square Corporation Square Waterfront Boulevard Odyssey Boulevard Royal Avenue/Castle Place St.25* £3.4 £12.5 £1.9 £3.3* £3.1 £1.2* £2.9 £2.3 £2.
landscape architect (Blackstaff Square) • Light Matters (City Centre Lighting Strategy) . landscape architects (Writers’ Square) • John Williams.44 People & Place: Public Realm Strategy for Belfast City Centre APPENDIX A CONSULTEES & REPORTS Statutory Bodies and Relevant Organisations • Belfast City Centre Regeneration Directorate (previously Belfast Regeneration Office) • Laganside Corporation • Belfast City Council • Development Department • Culture Arts and Leisure • Events • Arts and Heritage Officers • Environmental Services • Parks and Amenities • Belfast City Centre Management Company • DRD Roads Service • Translink/Transport Holding Company • DOE Planning Service • Imagine Belfast • Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan team • Belfast Metropolitan Transport Plan team • Belfast Visitor & Convention Bureau • Northern Ireland Housing Executive • Environment and Heritage Services Background Documents • Conservation Area Documents (Cathedral Quarter. Linen Quarter and City Centre) • Draft Townscape Strategy (Todd Architects) • City Centre Health Check (Belfast City Centre Management) • Laganside Linkage Strategy (Laganside Corporation) • Draft BRO Strategy – February 2002 (Belfast Regeneration Office) • Belfast City Centre Regeneration Policy Framework – July 2003 (Department for Social Development) • Belfast City Centre Regeneration Policy Statement – April 2004 (Department for Social Development) • Draft Final Belfast City Masterplan September 2003 (Belfast City Council) Developers • MDC • Westfield • Dunloe Ewart • Deramore Properties • Diljit Rana Consultants • Belfast City Council.
dsdni.gov.uk This publication is also available in various formats. For more information please contact the Department for Social Development.Additional copies of the Strategy Document are available on request from: Belfast City Centre Regeneration Directorate Department for Social Development 2nd Floor McKelvey House 25 Wellington Place Belfast BT1 6GD Tel: 02890 277653 Fax: 02890 277655 This document is also available on the Department’s Website – www. .
February 2005 .
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