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Vision for Belfast’s Waterfront Launched

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14th December 2023

Vision for Belfast’s Waterfront Launched

Aim to make Belfast one of the world’s great waterfront cities

A new vision launched today sets out to make Belfast one of the world’s great waterfront cities.

The Belfast Waterfront Promenade provides a framework to ensure that future regeneration of the city’s waterfront, one of the largest in Europe, follows an agreed set of design principles.

The new approach was developed by the Belfast Waterfront Task Group, made up of representatives from charity Maritime Belfast Trust, Belfast City Council, Belfast Harbour, Titanic Quarter Limited, Tourism NI and the Departments for Communities, Infrastructure, the Economy and of Agriculture, Environment & Rural Affairs.

Stretching from Sailortown to Ormeau Park, over half of the 10,000m waterfront remains available for development. Those behind the Promenade plan believe this is a generational opportunity to reshape Belfast’s relationship with its waterfront and maximise the area’s potential to provide economic and social benefits for all of Northern Ireland.

Kerrie Sweeney, CEO of Maritime Belfast Trust, said:

“Over the past 30 years Belfast has rediscovered its waterfront with projects such as the Lagan Weir, ICC Belfast, Odyssey Arena, Titanic Quarter and City Quays.

“Such is its scale, however, over half of the city’s waterfront area remains to be regenerated. We’re ready for the next stage, but this generational opportunity will only realise its full potential if everyone adopts a joined-up approach.

“The Promenade framework, backed by all the key groups involved in Belfast’s waterfront, is the starting point for the next 30 years of development. It won’t happen overnight, but there’s no reason why Belfast can’t be a great people-centric waterfront city on par with locations such as Copenhagen, Stockholm or Seattle.”

Councillor Clíodhna Nic Bhranair, Chair of Belfast City Council’s City Growth and Regeneration Committee, said:

“As we’ve outlined in A Bolder Vision for Belfast, we’re passionate about enhancing connectivity in the city – and now, the Belfast Waterfront Promenade gives us an unparalleled opportunity to turn towards the river and connect right through the heart of the city along both sides of its waterfront.

“Our waterfront is an amazing natural asset for Belfast and its regeneration can help to reconnect and revitalise existing communities, create new communities and support jobs, tourism, and investment. Belfast City Council is already exploring funding options for a new bridge linking Sailortown to Titanic Quarter – and through the Belfast HUB-IN project, we’re working in partnership with the Maritime Belfast Trust to animate the unique heritage of our Maritime Mile through digital innovation.

“Communities, particularly those that bound the river need to also have ownership of the regeneration, feel the direct benefits and have direct say and involvement in decisions going forward including representation on the Waterfront Task Group. “

The framework is based around nine distinctive character areas including Sailortown, ‘Harbour Park’ and ‘Harbour Wharf’ near Titanic Belfast, ‘Gateways’ centred around the Lagan Weir and ‘Up River’ which stretches to Ormeau Park.

It contains practical design guidance and a toolkit of development options to help balance community, nature, and development. There are plans for new pedestrian and cycle bridges across the Victoria Channel, as well as new public spaces, playgrounds, heritage trails, floating boardwalks, businesses and wetlands, moorings and cantilevered decking.

By adopting an integrated approach, the Waterfront Promenade aims to improve the area’s links to the rest of the city, enrich marine habitats and provide a focal point for leisure, employment, cycling, walking and tourism. Overall, the vision is to create a stand-out international destination that improves quality of life for residents and showcases Northern Ireland to investors and visitors alike.

The detail of the framework was created by Danish firm Schulze+Grassov, specialists in urban design. The firm has also worked on projects such as Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz and London’s Design District in Greenwich.

Oliver Schulze, co-founder and Partner with Schulze+Grassov, said:

“Belfast is world famous for its shipbuilding heritage, but few people – internationally or even in Northern Ireland – really appreciate how long the city’s waterfront is and its proximity to the city centre - or the stunning backdrop of the Belfast Hills.

“These natural advantages help make this remarkable urban space internationally significant. The framework aims to build upon these elements and create a shared sense of place to link and enhance future development projects.”

The Belfast Waterfront Task Group is working towards establishing the Waterfront Promenade as a Local Policy Area so that its design guidelines are adopted by planning authorities. Plans are also underway to create a pilot Waterfront Design Panel with expert voices to peer review proposals along the Promenade against guidelines and surrounding context.

Full details of the plan are available at maritimebelfast.com where the public are also invited to share their views on how Belfast’s waterfront should be developed.