The work is due to start in May 2009, with completion by September 2010.
Unveiling the designs, Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie said:
“Change is coming to Belfast. Positive change, change for the better for Donegall Place and Castle Place.A website has been set up for the project here.
“My Department is investing £7million to make this change happen. This money will be spent on new paving and new lighting to make these streets more accessible for pedestrians and to secure much needed jobs in the construction sector.”
“When the first stage of this work is completed next year we will have wider pavements and partial pedestrianisation with buses running only in one direction. This will make Donegall Place and Castle Place a safer more attractive environment for shoppers, visitors and those who work in the city centre.
“The new streetscape should also attract further investment in retail once the market picks up and enhance those businesses currently trading in the area. The design of the new streetscape will respect the historic fabric of these streets.”
“The scheme will finally be completed when the city centre transport plan is fully implemented. At that point Donegall Place will be fully pedestrianised. We are moving forward in the right direction making sure that we get the balance right between meeting the needs of pedestrians and ensuring the smooth running of public transport.
“The construction works will be carried out in full consultation with local businesses in the streets to be improved. I would ask city centre stakeholders and the public to bear with us as the end result will be worthwhile.
“Previous completed paving works, which have been dug up by utility companies, has hampered the construction programme of late. I want to ensure a better effort to coordinate their activities within the existing roads legislation and construction programme going forward.
"I have written to my ministerial colleague Conor Murphy, who has responsibility for roads, and asked him to consider bringing in stiffer penalties. This will help guarantee compliance in future developments by all utility companies.”
“Phase one of the 'Belfast: Streets Ahead' programme will end when the streetscape is in place in 2010. It will have transformed 13 streets in Belfast`s main shopping area, representing a total investment of £28million.
"The legacy of this investment will be a vibrant shopping area we can all be proud of. It will be safer, cleaner, more attractive, more accessible and among the best of our competitor regional European cities."
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