Northern Ireland news

Businesses within Primark safety cordon to be closed 'until at least the new year'

The Primark building in central Belfast was gutted in a blaze last week. Picture by Hugh Russell

FOURTEEN businesses unable to trade because of a cordon around fire ravaged Bank Buildings in Belfast city centre have been told it will remain in place "for a minimum of four months".

The news means businesses within the cordon could be closed until at least the new year.

Belfast council said "alternative premises" are being sought for businesses affected by the cordon and advice provided "in respect of rates and employability".

Fire swept through the Primark store on August 28 and it was three days before the Fire and Rescue Service declared that it had been extinguished.

The council said businesses within the "Primark safety exclusion zone" had been told of the timeline at a meeting this afternoon and that "any opportunity to shrink this timeline will be taken". 

Engineers continue to assess the site in the heart of the city and a decision has not been reached on whether it is possible to save the  façade, the council said, adding that one possibility is to build "a bracking solution to secure Bank Buildings".

Primark yesterday stressed its "ongoing commitment to the city of Belfast" and said staff will be paid again this week and next. More than 400 people are employed at the store.

 The clock on top of the building which houses the Primark store in Belfast has been destroyed. Picture by Liam McBurney, Press Association

Belfast mayor Deirdre Hargey said today that signage would be put in place to help pedestrians navigate the city centre while a section of Royal Avenue remains closed.

“Belfast City Council continues to work with its city partners to look at ways we can revive this part of the city centre in the wake of the fire and the ongoing recovery operation.

“While it is imperative that the safety cordon remains, we recognise it is having a serious impact - not just on the traders within the cordon, but for those in the immediate area who are suffering due to a reduction in footfall.

“In the coming days and weeks, we will be implementing a range of measures to help businesses who are struggling in the current situation. Alongside the group meetings, the council has continued to hold one to one meetings with businesses affected to understand all of the individual issues.”

She said council, agencies and government departments "are working together to find alternative premises for businesses and arranging initiatives for affected traders to provide advice  in respect of rates and employability".

"Belfast City Council and its city partners is also planning a campaign aimed at sustaining visitors to the city and supporting retailers to run over the next four months."

An aerial image of the Primark store gutted by fire in Belfast city centre. Picture by Gregory Weeks


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