Northern Ireland

Belfast: Is plan to boost city centre living realistic?

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Media captionBelfast City Council wants to have 66,000 more people living in the city centre by 2035

Belfast City Council wants to have 66,000 more people living in the city centre by 2035.

That will mean building about 30,000 new homes.

Across the UK and Europe city centres are prime real estate, yet only about 3,000 people live in Belfast city centre.

Historically people have not been encouraged to live in the city centre but that attitude is changing.

It is hoped bringing more people to live in the heart of the city will have a knock-on effect on shops, restaurants and bars.

Image caption The city centre requires major residential developments if the council is to achieve its target

Alistair Reid of Belfast City Council said: "We can't build all these new homes on the outskirts of the city because if we did that, when people came to work, they would want to drive in or take public transport.

"Successful cities are showing now that if you have that core high-density urban living people walk to work or they can cycle to work - you can change how the city looks and feels."

'Right places to live'

As more jobs are created in the city centre, that pushes up demand for places to live, which is something that Belfast's first "build-to-rent" project by Lacuna Developments wants to tap in to.

The difference with that sort of scheme is that it is rental only, targeting longer term tenancies, and the landlord is a property company.

Anthony Best, the managing director at Lacuna Developments said: "We need to keep our talent pool and to keep our talent pool we don't just need to offer jobs, we need to offer the right places for them to live.

Image caption Exchange Street is the location for the build-to-rent project in Belfast

"Those people want now to live in the city centre - if you look at other regional cities - whether it be Leeds, Edinburgh, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol - that's the way it's gone."

New student accommodation projects are also bringing more young people to live in the city centre.

Is the council's target realistic?

Chris Milligan, a partner at the law firm Arthur Cox, thinks so.

He said: "The population in inner city Belfast is at its lowest since the 1890s and we have been on a gradual decline since 1971."

"Reintroducing those people with the right skills and the right opportunities back into the city centre is both achievable and desired."