Primark to rebuild flagship Belfast store immediately

Fire has led to ‘huge reduction’ in footfall

The fire-damaged Primark store in Belfast.

The fire-damaged Primark store in Belfast.

 

Primark plans to “immediately” start rebuilding its flagship store in the heart of Belfast, which had been devastated by a fire, and begin re-trading in the city in a temporary store.

Belfast City Council confirmed on Friday that it had granted planning permission to Primark to begin conservation-led works to take down the top two floors of Bank Buildings, which had been a landmark in Belfast city centre since 1785.

A cordon has surrounded the site since the fire which, according to retail and hospitality bosses in Northern Ireland, has led to a “huge reduction” in trade and shopper footfall in Belfast city centre.

Hopeful

But the council is hopeful that once the more “unstable elements” of Bank Buildings are removed, work can begin to install a façade retention scheme on the building and it will then be possible to reduce the cordon and allow pedestrians access between Royal Avenue and Donegall Place again.

Councillor Matt Garrett, chairman of the Belfast City Council’s planning committee, said: “The committee has asked for an undertaking from Primark that it will begin work as soon as practically possible.

“There is a real urgency for businesses, both inside and outside the cordon, to ensure their economic resilience in the run-up to Christmas and beyond, so it’s vital that Primark moves forward and ensures the required works are completed as soon as possible.”

Primark said it intended to start work on the listed building “immediately” and that it anticipated the first phase of work would be ongoing over a number of months.

Footfall

“We recognise how important it is to reduce the protective cordon. We have agreed a walkway solution with the council to open up Royal Avenue. Work has started and it should be in place in a matter of weeks.

“Since the devastating fire at Bank Buildings, it has been our ambition to be up and trading in Belfast as soon as possible. We are planning to open in Commonwealth House, Castle Street in December. We believe that opening up a Primark store in the city centre at this time will help to restore footfall into the area.”

Retail bosses have welcomed the planning decision and Primark’s commitment to Belfast.

Northern Ireland Retail Consortium director, Aodhán Connolly said: “This will be a lifeline for those traders in the cordon and those outside who have seen their footfall drop by over 50 per cent. We also welcome the news that Primark will open again soon as it will serve as a footfall draw to this part of the city which has been devastated.”