1st Apr 2019 in Business

An action group of Cathedral Quarter businesses has proposed a ‘selfie tax’ to protect the iconic cobbles of Commercial Court.

Housing The Duke of York, The Dark Horse and Hadskis, as well as a number of offices and businesses, the streetway is well-known for being one of the most picturesque parts of the city. With its fairy lights, cobblestones, hanging umbrellas, bright red benches and colourful planters and street art, it’s easy to see why Commercial Court has become the “Instagram capital” of the CQ, as one business owner put it.

Vizz Photography

While the additional foot traffic is great for the pubs and restaurants in the area, it has come at a price, and a group of businesses and organisations say the famous tiles and cobbles are becoming “loose, broken and dangerous”.

Gareth Neill of Destination CQ BID says; “We’ve been approached by a number of stakeholders in the area over the past few weeks, who are concerned that if something isn’t done to manage or minimise the damage, we not only risk losing a much-loved part of the Cathedral Quarter’s built heritage, we’re also facing streets that are unsafe for pedestrians and wheelchair users.”

The Cathedral Quarter is a busy business district as well as a popular night-time spot, and some businesses are concerned that staff and clients could trip and injure themselves on loose or broken stones.

The concerned stakeholders have formed an action group (Save Our Commercial Court Cobble Stones) and lodged a series of complaints with the Department for Infrastructure. The BID facilitated a meeting last week with the group, together with representatives from Belfast City Council and the Department for Infrastructure to see if a solution could be reached.

Vizz Photography

“The idea of using BID money or Council funding to repair and maintain the cobbles was unpopular,” said Gareth, “The general feeling is that those who use the street solely as a backdrop for social media content should contribute towards keeping the street safe to use for those who live and work here.”

It’s not the first time a Northern Ireland tourist hotspot has been put at risk by eager Insta snappers. Locals feared the trees at The Dark Hedges faced extinction following a post-Games of Thrones surge in the numbers of visitors arriving to have their photo taken at the Ballymoney beauty spot. To protect the trees, the DfI imposed a traffic ban.

There has also been cobblestone controversy in the Georgian market town of Stamford, where Lincolnshire County Council proposed replacing the damaged cobblestones of Red Lion Square with tarmac.

Further discussions will now be held to discuss the logistics and feasibility of a Commerical Court selfie tax – early suggestions included an honesty box with a suggested £5 per photo (£6 if wearing high-heeled or stiletto shoes), or a rota of volunteer donation collectors during peak visitor times.


What do you think? Have you ever visited Commercial Court simply “for the ‘Gram?” How do you think we should protect this city centre beauty spot? Join the conversation over on our socials now, we’d love to hear your ideas! We’re on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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