September 04, 2013

The 12th July - Belfast city centre management report

Cartoon I did for Slugger O'Toole for 12th July 2012 here.
Here's some of the main findings from the Belfast City Centre Management report on the effect of the 12th July parades on Belfast city centre.

- One "well-known High Street brand" had only seven customers.
- Store owners were now questioning whether it was worth continuing to open on 12 July.
- Businesses reported "an increase in tensions," with the perception that it had put people off coming into Belfast.
- Just over 80% of shops that opened reported trade below expectations.
- Just 7% of these businesses were happy with the number of people they got through their doors.  In contrast 80% were unhappy with a further 13% undecided.
- A big concern was people openly drinking alcohol on the streets, with large amounts of rubbish being left behind.
- Based on their 2013 experience, 65% of businesses would potentially not open next 12 July, something described as "frankly disappointing."
- 50% of businesses reported an unfriendly family atmosphere and several cited rising tensions as being a turnoff for some consumers.

The observation below was a stand-out comment and should make subject for very serious, frank consideration:
"Visit Belfast received complaints from tourists who talked of "an intimidatory atmosphere" and "louts roaming around drunk.""
When the news was shared on Facebook, an English inward migrant now domiciled in NI for some years said: 
"As someone who has lived here for quite a long time now, I can confirm that 12th July is absent a positive atmosphere. It's militaristic, nasty, sometimes vulgar, and not much fun." 

More on the anti-social behaviour and levels on drinking from the BCC Management report:
"One of the concerns most reported by the businesses was the openness with which individuals were drinking alcohol on the street[s]. This was the only type of anti-social behaviour reported, and there were no instances where PSNI assistance was required. Businesses believe that on-street drinking has remained an issue since the shop opening began in 2009 and this needs to be addressed. The condition of the public realm after the parades also remains a key issue, with reports of large amounts of rubbish, empty beer and other alcohol bottles and tins. The city centre took longer to clean than previous years with cleansing of Donegall Place not being complete until 13:30hrs. 
Visit Belfast received communication from visitors complaining about the condition of the public realm, especially the dirt and rubbish but, more significantly, also an "intimidatory atmosphere" with "louts roaming around the streets drunk".  
The complaint stated that the advertised Orangefest carnival atmosphere was not present; the correspondence concluded: "advertising this Orangefest as a celebration or carnival is not doing the city any good because it’s not living up to tourist expectations". This observation is important, as it is made by someone not familiar with the parades or the issues associated with them. Therefore it is an independent unbiased view."

Slugger covers it here, the BBC here and you can read the full report here.

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