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Answers sought as to why Primark cordon must remain in place for so long

Pete Boyle, owner of Argento, has called for Bank Buildings to be demolished to allow Belfast to begin trading again in the run-up to Christmas. Picture by Hugh Russell
Marie Louise McConville

PLANS to maintain a cordon around the Primark building in Belfast city centre for at least four months were branded "excessive" yesterday by architecture experts.

The Royal Society of Ulster Architects (RSUA) last night said it could see "no reason why the facade of the building cannot be externally supported and a reduced cordon put in place".

The comments came as more traders voiced concerns at the plans by Belfast City Council officials which, they said, were made without consultation.

Only the historic facade remains of the flagship Primark store on Royal Avenue following a blaze last week.

A cordon was immediately put in place extending along part of Royal Avenue and Castle Street leaving 14 businesses unable to trade.

Last night, Joan McCoy, president of the RSUA, said the body was "seeking details" as to why it is "deemed necessary" that the cordon remains in place for so long.

"To further enhance the area and bolster trade we would propose that the whole of Royal Avenue, as well as Castle Place and part of Castle Street, is completely pedestrianised while a reduced cordon remains in place," she said.

The call for a smaller cordon came as Peter Boyle, who owns Argento - one of the stores inside the cordon - called for the Primark facade to be demolished to allow trading to get back to normal.

Mr Boyle said it was "not acceptable" that the cordon would remain in place for so long while business in the city centre suffers.

He said traders were given no explanation as to why the decision had been made.

"Someone needs to tell us who's making these decisions. Why have they not asked people's opinions?"

Mr Boyle said some traders had talked about bringing in an independent demolition team to survey the site, adding that businesses "could be open in three weeks" if demolition went ahead.

He added: "People know my business, we have multiple sites in Belfast.

"We will suffer severe financial loss but there are other people for who Belfast is their only trading location. This will close companies down".

He also described a suggestion that some affected businesses relocate to vacant buildings in North Street - where North Street Arcade still stands in disrepair after being destroyed in a fire in 2004 - as "cuckoo land".

The suggestion was made by Marcus Patton, chairman of the Historic Buildings Council, who said demolishing the "very important" Bank Buildings was not the answer as it is "a very slow process".

"Restoration is the best way to get Belfast back into action," he said.

"There are buildings that could be taken over with pop-up businesses. People would support it".

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