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Bringing child friendly design to Belfast’s city centre

In August 2018 a fire in Belfast’s city centre destroyed the historic Bank Building property. Since the fire, there have been discussions on how to rebuild and redesign the city centre in a child friendly way.

The Bank Building was home to a Primark store and since the fire, a total of 14 businesses were temporarily closed and some remain closed. In an effort to create something new and child friendly Belfast’s City Growth and Regeneration committee have applied for the ‘Streets for Kids’ programme which delivers new technical guidance and advance street designs that create safe public spaces for kids of all ages to learn, play, and move around a city.

The council made a joint application with Belfast Healthy Cities to the programme – an initiative of the US National Association of City Transportation Officials’ Global Designing Cities Initiative (NACTO-GDCI).

Joan Devlin, chief executive Belfast Healthy Cities stated that children would help form the future design of the city continuing he added “a child-friendly environment creates a healthy urban environment for people of all ages. The Streets for Kids initiative will allow us to work with Belfast City Council to further engage key stakeholders across the city in the Child Friendly Places agenda, improving the local environment for the benefit of our children and young people.”

“Last year’s fire at Bank Buildings, and the impact that has had on our city centre, has prompted us to look at how our public spaces are used. We are committed to restoring our city centre to the very vibrant place we know it to be; but that includes exploring new ideas and taking this opportunity to reimagine how our city centre might look – how, if you like, we put it back together again and create something new” said Donal Lyons, chair of the City Growth and Regeneration committee.

Belfast’s Resilience commissioner Grainia Long is eager to learn from other cities and is also working with Arup as a strategic partner. Long remarked: “an emerging theme in our early engagement on this issue is the importance of designing a city that supports a positive childhood for all. There is evidence that urban spaces which support healthy child development also contribute to improved health for all our citizens in terms of cleaner air, improved mobility, inclusion and tackling loneliness – and these are all ambitions within the Belfast Agenda.”

Author: Julia Zvobgo

Julia Zvobgo is a Cultural Anthropologist and the Community Manager of Child in the City.

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