22nd Jan 2020 in Business

Cathedral Quarter Business Improvement District manager Gareth Neill has welcomed the accreditation of Belfast City Centre as a Purple Flag destination.

The Purple Flag scheme is similar to the Blue Flag and Green Flag schemes. It is an official accreditation that a town or city is a safe and pleasant place to visit during the night and the day for both the residents and anyone who visits.

Gareth Neill explained: “Areas that receive a Purple Flag are acknowledged for promoting high standards of entertainment, dining and drinking in the area while at the same time promoting care for the safety and wellbeing of the people who use them.

“Towns and cities must go through a set of standards, management processes and examples of good practice. All of this is created to transform the town or city’s evening and night-time economy (ENTE) for the better. The scheme can offer training, development and research to help it accomplish this and tackle issues such as anti-social behaviour.”

Belfast becomes Northern Ireland’s 5th area with Purple Flag status joining Derry-Londonderry, Enniskillen, Armagh and Newry.

The Cathedral Quarter BID, in partnership with Belfast One BID and Linen Quarter BID provided funding for a 12-month campaign which saw a number of city stakeholders come together to take part in the 12-month application process which included carrying out research, customer feedback and external assessments.

The BIDs along with key partners including Hospitality Ulster, PSNI, Translink, Belfast City Council, Belfast ChamberDepartment for Infrastructure, Department for Communities, SOS Bus NI and Value Cabs commissioned Belfast City Centre Management to put forward the application that focussed on the five core standards of Purple Flag which are well-being, movement, appeal, place and policy.

David Gibson (PSNI), Chris McCracken (Linen Quarter BID), Brian Montgomery (Translink), Gareth Neill (CQ BID), Eimear McCracken (Belfast City Centre Management) and hospitality consultant and publican Michael Stewart

The scheme has five core standards and the city or town that is applying must meet them to become a Purple Flag status holder. These standards are:

· The Policy Envelope: An after-hours policy that displays a clear strategy, which must be based on solid research, an integrated public policy and a successful partnership between different sectors.

· Wellbeing: Destinations must be safe and welcome, and all sectors must be performing their duties to provide a high standard of customer care.

· Movement: People must be able to get home safely after an evening or night out. They must also be able walk around the city centre easily. These are both indispensable requirements.

· Appeal: The destination must offer a colourful choice of leisure and entertainment facilities for a variety of different ages, groups, cultures and lifestyles.

· Place: A successful destination must be lively during the day-time and evening and have available a mixture of overlapping activities that allow and encourage people to socialise and enjoy the place. The destination must reinforce the area’s character and identity and establish further its creativity and flair for urban design when it comes to the evening.

Gareth Neill, CQ BID Manager

Gareth Neil, BID Manager at Destination Cathedral Quarter said “The City Centre has significant growth ambitions for residential, commercial and tourism markets. With a significant increase in city living through the private residential market over the next 12-18 months and the ever expanding hotel sector there is a requirement to ensure that Belfast meets the aspirations of new residents, employers, and tourists, along with what is expected from an international city.

“The city, and in particular the Cathedral Quarter, has more to offer than ever before. Our richly developed cultural scene including the MAC, Black Box, Oh Yeah Music Centre, Grand Opera House, and Ulster Hall, showcases an outstanding year-round program of events. Securing Purple Flag is a wonderful achievement and cause for celebration by the whole city”

According to the ATCM (The Association of Town & City Management), over 70 towns and cities across the UK have the privilege of Purple Flag status, including Swansea, Liverpool, Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Manchester and London West End’s Convent Garden and Leicester Square areas.

Stakeholders take to the streets of Belfast during the Purple Flag assessment in November 2019

The ATCM conducted their independent purple flag assessment of Belfast in November 2019.

Sarah Walker, Purple Flag Programme Manager at ATCM said “We are delighted that Belfast has been awarded this purple-flag status. Our independent report highlights a number of key strengths for Belfast; from a variety of restaurants, bars and venues to a unique sense of place, Belfast successfully weaves its physical and social heritage with a contemporary offer.”

Research has shown that people across all age groups are looking for genuine places to be eat, dine and be entertained. According to Tourism Northern Ireland, tourism brings £723 million each year into the Northern Irish economy.

Claire McGuire, Managing Director at Belfast One said she was “delighted” at the accreditation: “Belfast is a shining example of a fun and safe city. We are a strong example of good partners working together; including effective night-time policing that links with an impressive range of voluntary agencies such as SOS Bus, Lagan Search & Rescue, and Belfast Street Pastors.”

Belfast receives 250,000 business visitors and over 60,000 conference attendees. Meanwhile, one-third of the Belfast population is under 21. They all seek an enhanced, more vibrant experience of the city.

Chris McCracken, Managing Director of the Linen Quarter, said: “This award champions Belfast’s diverse and vibrant night-time economy, with a clean and safe environment, great restaurants, bars and clubs, good transport links and a unique sense of place. Winning the award shows what different partners can do when they come together to achieve a common goal.”

The Steering Group created by the BIDs carried out a self-assessment to review the night-time offer and the many services that underpin the management of a safe and enjoyable evening economy.

Now that the award has been granted the Steering Group will be meeting with Belfast City Council and other stakeholders to discuss lessons from the assessment, along with key initiatives required to further support and grow Belfast’s night-time economy.

Belfast Purple Flag Accreditation

To celebrate the award Gareth revealed CQ BID along with Belfast One and Linen Quarter will be funding a high-profiled marketing campaign called Alive After Five which is set to highlight the city’s vibrant evening offer.

He added: “Earning Purple Flag status will raise the profile of Belfast as a city. It will transform local areas and help us to become even more attractive to visitors which, in turn, will see businesses benefit from a higher footfall, increased revenue and a wider range of patrons.

“Not only this, the scheme has the potential to create more diversification. Belfast will be able to offer consumers a wider choice. The city will benefit from more development and expenditure, and become a (more) successful mixed-use economy. With an anticipated influx of student population; new residents living in the City Centre ensuring we have the right mechanisms for developing a safe, clean and welcoming evening economy is incredibly important.”


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