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Plans to turn the Weaver’s Cross regeneration site into the Belfast 'Smart City Centre' have emerged from City Hall.

Elected representatives at a recent Belfast City Council committee meeting heard an update from officers on the Belfast Smart District programme, including details on the commencement of a first phase “to leverage and maximise innovation opportunities for the city, communities and businesses building on the new Weavers Cross regeneration”.

The site will have an “urban innovation accelerator” including a “national” Net Zero Mobility Hub and a Health Innovation Hub, in cooperation with both NI universities, planned to be field leaders of net zero strategies and medtech in the UK.

The council report says the urban innovation accelerator framework will “foster greater collaborative innovation between government (both local and regional), industry, small to medium enterprises, academia, and our communities”.

It states: “Smart Belfast is about encouraging these partners to work together to harness the power of digital technologies to develop policy solutions to urban challenges.”

Last summer Belfast City Council’s Planning Committee unanimously approved “outline” permission for major regeneration development on lands freed up by the future closure of the existing Europa Bus Station and Great Victoria Street train station.

The mixed-use development will be located to the east and west of Durham Street, south of Grosvenor Road, stretching as far as Sandy Row, and involves new office space, residential apartments and a hotel. It is also planned to provide new public realm space, active travel, hospitality and community uses.

Around a fifth of this space has been proposed for housing, with a fifth of the residential space set aside for social/affordable housing. This means that half of this final allotted space will be “social”, the other half “affordable.”

The council received 14 letters of support and 143 letters of objection at the time of the application, including an objection from the County Grand Orange Lodge of Belfast. The majority of the objections relate to the removal of the Boyne Bridge and introduction of new pedestrian crosses associated with the Belfast Grand Central Station plan, which has already been approved, with construction well underway.

The council report, from its Strategic Policy and Resources Committee, states: “The Smart District is about grounding urban innovation initiatives in ‘real-world’ opportunities in which they can be developed, tested, and scaled. A compelling opportunity that falls within the Smart District is the Weavers Cross regeneration.

“Cities across the world have used similar large-scale transport regeneration schemes as a catalyst for a wider urban innovation and economic growth (eg, London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, King’s Cross, and Dublin’s Smart Docklands).

“A multi-partner innovation urban accelerator at Weavers Cross has the potential to radically accelerate Belfast’s Smart District ambitions. Such an urban innovation accelerator will leverage the planned investments by Translink and its partners to generate significant additionality for the wider city, communities, SMEs and both local universities.”

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Autor(en)/Author(s): Michael Kenwood

Quelle/Source: msn, 28.04.2023

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