Primark has donated £500,000 to traders in Belfast city centre who are suffering from a dive in footfall after Primark’s historic store caught fire.
Last month the budget retailer’s store in grade listed store in the Bank Buildings, first built in 1787, saw a fire destroy the roof and all five floors.
Although no one was hurt, a cordon has remained around the property ever since.
Many businesses are situated within the cordon, which is expected to remain in place for months to come, and have been forced to close.
Others have suffered from a sharp decline in footfall as the cordon blocks several vital thoroughfares in the area, causing fears it could mean further losses during the critical Christmas period.
It is understood that the shell of the burnt our building is at risk of collapsing, and structural assessments on whether any of the building are ongoing, meaning the cordon will stay in place for the foreseeable future.
Though many surrounding businesses have called for it to be demolished to enable them to continue trading, this would be illegal without definitive evidence the building cannot be saved due to it being listed.
Primark has now announced a £500,000 donation to Belfast City Council as a “gesture of goodwill”, leaving the council to “manage the distribution of the recovery fund to those local businesses impacted by the fire.”
“It is our intention to be back up and trading again as soon possible,” a Primark spokesperson added.
“As you can appreciate, we are at the early stages on this and will confirm details as soon as possible.”
In response a Belfast City Council spokeswoman said: “This is a very welcome announcement from Primark and will contribute to the wider City Recovery Investment Fund, which the council is currently establishing, and which will be considered by members of the Council’s Strategic Policy and Resources Committee on Friday.
“Belfast City Council is developing a City Recovery Investment Programme which includes immediate, medium and longer-term proposals to support businesses, re-establish and sustain high levels of trading the city centre in the lead up to Christmas and beyond, increase connectivity across the city centre, ultimately ensuring the city’s economic resilience.”
450 staff were affected in the blaze and Primark has pledged to pay the staff until the end of the week following the fire and ensure their job security when the retailer re-establishes itself in Belfast.