Anna Lo MLA said: “It is a shame that a once-thriving community and business area should have been allowed to decline to become one of the most deprived areas in Northern Ireland.
“Now that there is peace and stability, it is about time that efforts were concentrated to revive that once prosperous and viable community, which has been blighted by the Troubles and by economic decline.
“Belfast City Council’s neighbourhood development funding forum has taken forward a recommendation from the strategic plan for a marketing and promotion strategy. Sandy Row should be included in the branding programme to make Belfast city a place to visit and in which to invest, and it should be part of the regeneration strategy to promote tourism in Belfast. It is only a short distance from the city centre and can be a gateway to south Belfast, which has many attractions, amenities and diversity.
“I support the call in the strategic plan to create a positive and attractive physical environment that will encourage people to come to the area to live, to shop, to visit and to invest. The area is rich in cultural and historic points of interest, with its involvement in, for example, world wars and local industries, as well as the many lively stories of local characters. With pride in its heritage and its forward-looking vision, a Sandy Row cultural quarter could be a reality. Other cities throughout the world, such as New York and San Francisco, are made up of many different quarters that offer a variety of perspectives and cultural diversity.
“There is a great need to have more social housing for families so that they can stay in the area and ensure the community’s sustainability. The living over the shop town-centre initiative, is a worthÂwhile pursuit to consider, as it will help to regenerate the area, not only to contribute to the daytime and evening economy but to provide sound investment opportunities for local retailers and developers.
“The area has been uplifted in recent years – in the past year, four new specialist shops have opened in the area; a lay-by creation scheme is also in operation to help shoppers with parking. All those good initiatives should be built upon, but we need the full support of both the Executive and the City Council.”