The infrastructural challenges facing Belfast over the next two decades were explored at a major think-tank event organised at the city’s new Titanic Hotel.
Entitled Belfast 2035 the event was facilitated by leading local law firm, Cleaver Fulton Rankin which has advised on many aspects of development within the burgeoning Titanic Quarter.
The evening took the form of a panel discussion involving leading figures from civic society and was attended by representatives from the local property, development, strategic planning and infrastructure sectors.
Panellists for the evening included Suzanne Wylie – Chief Executive of Belfast City, John McGrillen, CEO of Tourism Ireland, Chris Conway, Group Chief Executive of NI Transport Holdings Company and Translink and Shane Quinn, Development Officer with the Belfast Buildings Trust. The discussion was chaired by Cleaver Fulton Rankin’s Head of Commercial Property, Joe Marley.
Joe Marley said: “We explored what Belfast will or should be like in 2035. We chose 2035 as it ties in nicely with the Council’s proposed Local Development Plan 2020-2035 but as you might imagine we also discussed the more immediate challenges and opportunities for the City.
“Belfast has a lot to be proud of in recent years, having achieved so much in areas such as tourism, inward investment and regeneration and the momentum this has created should form the foundation for tackling the challenges that lie ahead. I firmly believe that our cities have a role to play in driving the wider economy and mitigating the worst effects of challenges such as Brexit. I’m looking forward to exploring this further during the discussion.
“Whilst some of the discussion examined the implications for the commercial property market between now and 2035 we also considered a much wider range of topics, including tourism, transport, economic development, regeneration, preservation, social inclusion and of course, Brexit.
“As a city Belfast has many challenges to overcome in the next few decades, not least in the form of Brexit. There is just no hiding from the fact this is the prominent challenge of the day. Aside from that, we know a city’s prosperity does not necessarily benefit all, and Belfast is no different than any other City in this regard, with inequalities and deprivation in some neighbouring and surrounding areas of Belfast.”
Joe Marley believes Belfast can draw infrastructure inspiration from other UK cities such as Manchester.
“Manchester is an obvious example but Belfast is an example in itself of what can be achieved. The question is how to build on the successes to date.”