PUBLIC SPACES CAN BE PUT TO BETTER USE

18th October 2021

Linen Quarter Business Improvement District (LQ BID) has revealed a new 19 metre parklet on Bedford Street, just outside Pug Uglys pub, following on from the success of its Linenhall Street parklet which was revealed in July. Funded through the Department for Communities-led Covid19 Recovery: Revitalisation Programme in conjunction with Belfast City Council and the Department for Infrastructure, both parklets challenge how public space has been traditionally used to promote the contemporary city environment that citizens have come to demand.

The parklet allows Belfast to resemble some of the most contemporary and most visited cities in the world, from London to San Francisco, which are renowned for their creative and innovative use of their outdoor public realms. Although the parklet will be available to everyone to enjoy, Pug Uglys will now have the opportunity to extend its hospitality services to more people outdoors.

Commenting on the development, Communities Minister, Deirdre Hargey MLA, said: “I am delighted to see positive change continue in the city. Providing safe and enjoyable spaces for people to come together and enjoy is really valuable in delivering a sense of community and supporting people’s health and wellbeing.  Innovation in the hospitality industry is important particularly as the sector strives to recover from the impacts of the ongoing health pandemic. I am delighted to support the delivery of this new parklet as part of Covid19 Recovery: Revitalisation Programme. It is encouraging to see genuine progress driven by the LQ BID and in collaboration with Belfast City Council and other Executive Departments.”

Paul Langsford, director at Clover Group, the owners of Pug Uglys said: “It’s been a challenging time for pubs and restaurants and innovation has been the common denominator for those businesses that have survived. The parklet is an excellent example of how the city can support hospitality to thrive. Not only does it allow us to provide a service to more people, it also activates our shared spaces and makes the city centre a more vibrant place.

“The Linen Quarter is a wonderful district to do business in and it’s fantastic to be supported in such a tangible way by Chris, his team and the BID and their partners in the City Council. The area benefits greatly from tourism and it’s great to see the city centre developed to offer more welcoming spaces for people to come together and enjoy the city.”

Enhanced planting throughout the parklet also extends to include hedging and flowers at the front and rear of the historic Thomas Thompson Fountain which stands adjacent, providing a more pleasant urban experience in this busy pedestrian area, whilst also drawing more attention to the Victorian heritage of Belfast’s built environment.

Chris McCracken, Managing Director of Linen Quarter BID, said: “Belfast city’s public realm should be focused on supporting businesses and supporting health and well-being through enjoyment and inclusivity and our parklets are an excellent starting point as we work to revitalise and regenerate the Linen Quarter.  The pandemic brought challenges for businesses and cities, but it also brought opportunities for change and taught us that with a little creativity and collaboration, great things can happen. Belfast can’t afford to stand still so I’m delighted that LQ BID is driving positive change alongside the Department for Infrastructure, the Department for Communities and Belfast City Council.

“We know that there is ongoing demand for outdoor places. In fact, 91% of people we asked in a survey earlier this year said they were in support of the removal of car parking to enhance pavement space and we think our parklets are a fantastic representation of this public demand. true reflection of the progress people want to see.”

LQ BID will continue its improvements over the coming months with enhanced lighting being installed in Blackstaff Square and a new social hub being introduced at Brunswick Street which will include a container café, open air seating, an outdoor stage and a games area.

In addition to these developments, LQ BID has also made clear its ambitions to transform the Linen Quarter into Northern Ireland’s first sustainable district, helping to lead the collective effort required to tackle the climate crisis. To help bring this vision forward, LQ BID has identified key areas where businesses can make an immediate impact, such as energy, waste and transport, and has partnered with local organisations including Business in the Community, Power NI, RiverRidge and Cycling UK.

It has also recently announced the arrival of RE[act] Festival – the first event of its kind for Northern Ireland which will take place from Tuesday 2 November until Friday 12 November in line with the UN’s COP26 Summit. LQ BID aims to demonstrate that although there are challenges ahead, there are opportunities that the city can grasp and attendees at more than 20 events will have the opportunity to learn how to have a positive impact.