'Absent Executive would deliver nothing for Belfast' - Simon Hamilton

Belfast Chamber's chief executive Simon Hamilton (second from left); with Chamber President Michael Stewart; Leona Barr, CastleCourt; Zoe Watson, Clover Group; and Peter McCausland, Value Cabs. Picture by Kelvin Boyes.

A GROUP representing 800 Belfast businesses has called for the immediate restoration of the Executive after next month's Assembly poll.

Belfast Chamber's chief executive Simon Hamilton said an absent Stormont could hamper the city's future growth.

The comments from the former politician, who held three different ministerial portfolios as a high profile DUP MLA, came as Belfast Chamber outlined five post-election steps it said can transform the city's economy.

Calling on election candidates to back its plans, the business group said its top priorities include growing the city centre population by 20,000.

In order to do that, Belfast Chamber has called for a city centre housing plan, an upgrade of the city's water and sewage system, and a review into the powers of local government across Northern Ireland.

The call for an upgrade of water infrastructure comes as developers face increasing obstacles in developing new residential and commercial schemes due to a lack of capacity in the system.

Simon Hamilton said resolving the infrastructure problems will be key in helping Belfast reach the standards set by the likes of Liverpool, Leeds and Birmingham.

“Our city is still a work in progress, emerging from the challenges of the past, but headed towards a brighter future,” he said.

“To that end, we are asking candidates in the upcoming Assembly election to help our city realise its potential. Not in twenty or thirty years, but now.”

The chamber boss said realising the body's infrastructure, governance, connectivity, and housing plans will require support from Stormont.

“An absent Executive following next week's poll would deliver nothing for the Belfast economy and would impact negatively on the city's growth,” he said.

“Anything short of a full return will damage investment prospects, hamper long-term development, and would endanger the hard-earned progress we have made over recent years.

“Our message to the next cohort of MLAs is clear and unequivocal: to deliver for Belfast, we need the Executive to return immediately.”

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