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Belfast (Retail Premises)

Volume 116: debated on Thursday 14 May 1987

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asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what is the total area of retail premises in the city of Belfast which has been the subject of planning applications dealt with by his Department in the last three-year period for which figures are available.

The figures for total area of retail premises are not available, but since 1980 nearly 700 planning applications for retail development in the city of Belfast have been approved. That includes the recent approvals in Belfast city centre for the Castlecourt shopping complex of 345,000 sq ft, and one of 105,000 sq ft in Castle place. The Castlecourt development due to start later this year involves investment of £60 million, with Government backing of £10 million-worth of urban development grant. The people of Belfast are at last getting the range and quality of shopping that they deserve.

Further to one of my hon. Friend's earlier answers, is he aware that many of his hon. Friends—and, indeed, many other hon. Members—look forward to his re-election to the House? Is he further aware that the city of Belfast offers outstanding investment and development opportunities and that many investors and developers from the mainland are very favourably surprised when they learn of the returns that they can achieve by investing in Northern Ireland?

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's good wishes and I shall make sure that they are properly passed on to the electors of Wiltshire, North. He is absolutely right that there are tremendous investment prospects for Belfast which are not always understood by people on this side of the water. I am grateful to him for bringing that to the attention of the House, because the more we can get people to come to Belfast to see the conditions there for themselves, the more they will be pleasantly surprised and be prepared to put their money where their mouths are and develop the city in a way which the people deserve and which will benefit their shareholders' returns.

The Minister will understand if I do not join the hon. Member for Suffolk, South (Mr. Yeo) in extending good wishes to him.

We have an interest in the total outcome. May we be permitted to join in the well-deserved congratulations to Belfast on its determination to return to normality? Is it not true that it is a city where affluence and squalor exist side by side? Is there not a need to ensure that all citizens share in its success? How many successful planning applications have there been in the Shankhill in the past three years, and how many in the Falls?

I cannot give the right hon. and learned Gentleman the exact figures, but I am wholly aware of the need to ensure that the prosperity is spread throughout Belfast. The Brookfield development under Father Myles Kavanagh has been a major success in the Andersonstown area and we are supporting major investment in the Beltex development in the Ardoyne. I can assure him that the Government will do everything in their power now and from June to assist in developments in the deprived areas of Belfast. The right hon. and learned Gentleman will be aware of the Belfast city initiative and the fact that city action teams have been set up specifically to assist the poorer areas and to allow the communities to feel that they are involved in the development of the city. The Government accept that without that it would be more difficult to develop the city on behalf of everybody.