New Belfast Chamber group to tackle 'failure' to grow city residents

Belfast Chamber president Alana Coyle and Tom Stokes, director, TSA Planning.
Emma Deighan

BELFAST Chamber has formed a new regeneration policy working group in a bid to boost the city's residential and green spaces.

It will be chaired by Tom Stokes, director of TSA Planning, a planning consultancy in the city that has worked on many large regeneration projects.

This includes its involvement in the multimillion pound proposal to reinvigorate the Smithfield area of the city.

Mr Stokes said the group will address the "failure to grow the city centre's residential population".

Belfast Chamber President, Alana Coyle, added the regeneration working group will also “build a city that is an even better place to live in, work in, study in and visit and, in so doing, benefit businesses across Belfast”.

She said: “We all know how hard the pandemic hit Belfast. Thankfully, we have emerged from the worst of it, but it will continue to shape many aspects of life in the city.

"It is good to see new social spaces like parklets open across the city and more and more hospitality businesses utilising outdoor space creating the kind of atmosphere we have longed for in Belfast.

"Those types of changes, and others that are in the pipeline, are exactly what we need if we are to build on those infrastructure investments and create the sort of city that is a magnet for the talent that our fast-growing tech and professional services sectors need.”

The newly appointed president said chamber members will help shape the organisation's “vision”.

She added: “Belfast Chamber is creating a new regeneration policy working group and I am delighted that Tom Stokes, the director of TSA Planning, has agreed to chair it.

"I have asked Tom to draw together people with an interest and expertise in regeneration from across our membership to build on the work Belfast Chamber has started and develop a genuinely ambitious vision for Belfast and how we can regenerate in a way that enhances everyone's quality of life and makes Belfast a standout city for talent from around the world.”

Mr Stokes said: “Our city continues to transform with the Ulster University campus, the new Belfast Grand Central Station, along with new offices and hotels and adding to Belfast's already much changed skyline.

"However, Belfast still has further to go if it is to become the sort of city we want and need it to be.

"Change can sometimes be slower than we'd all like with the failure to grow the city centre's residential population a case in point.

"Belfast's business community, which Belfast Chamber is the voice of, is delivering a considerable amount of investment in the city. We are already working with government to improve Belfast.

“I hope that our new regeneration policy working group can untap some new ideas about how we can accelerate the change that everyone wants to see in Belfast and assist decision makers in City Hall and Stormont in their efforts to achieve the ambition targets set out in the Belfast Agenda.”