The Director of City Regeneration and Development provided an overview of the report regarding the development of a draft City Lighting Strategy as part of the Future City Centre Programme and draft strategy, ‘Luminous City: A Lighting Strategy for Belfast’, which would be subject to consultation.
She reminded the Committee that the development of a lighting strategy for the city had been identified as a priority within the Future City Centre Programme and Park Hood had been commissioned to assist the Council with the preparation of a lighting strategy and action plan for the city.
She explained that ‘Luminous City – A Lighting Strategy for Belfast’ aimed to develop a well-designed, co-ordinated and coherent approach to Belfast’s lighting so that lighting design became an intrinsic part of urban planning. It proposed ways to enhance the functional and aesthetic qualities of light in order to support and develop Belfast’s social, economic and sustainability targets.
She highlighted that, across a range of key stakeholders, there was a renewed focus on developing an accessible, well connected and sustainable city which supported our social and economic ambitions, celebrating our built environment and heritage as well as improving connections to communities by reducing the severance of harsh infrastructure.
The Chairperson welcomed Mr. D. Watkiss, Park Hood Consultants.
Mr. Watkiss provided an overview of the ‘Luminous City: A Lighting Strategy for Belfast’. He advised that the development of the strategy has been informed by an audit of existing infrastructure, analysis of current delivery approaches, and review of international best practice. Given the breadth of interested parties and the often fragmented responsibility for lighting, early and ongoing engagement and consultation has been undertaken which included:
· Belfast Chamber;
· Belfast City Centre Management;
· Visit Belfast;
· Retail sector (Victoria Square, CastleCourt);
· Cultural sector (Cathedral Quarter Trust, Household, Sailortown project);
· Belfast Harbour;
· Titanic Foundation;
· Department for Infrastructure;
· Department for Communities (including the Historic Environment Division);
· Ulster Architectural Heritage Society; and
He summarised the consultation responses to date and advised that wider engagement would be undertaken through the ongoing public consultation process throughout September and which would be completed in mid-October, presenting an opportunity to capture the views of local communities and residents.
He presented a number of pilot lighting projects which had enabled further direct engagement with property owners and members of the public, including through interactive ‘creative stations’ and through Public Engagement Hubs in vacant units. He highlighted the success of the lighting pilot projects on Castle Street, Royal Avenue and Castle Arcade.
The Committee was informed that a review of the existing lighting infrastructure within Belfast City Centre was undertaken between November 2019 and January 2020. The works involved visual inspections during the day and night which allowed for a review of both the aesthetics of the various fittings and the performance of the lighting itself to be observed and analysed.
Mr. Watkiss provided examples of the analysis which had taken place in relation to Streetscape and Building Observations, Points of Interest, Key Gateways, Landmarks and Monuments in Belfast, together with case studies from across the UK. He pointed out that the strategy presented best practice solutions to future proofing through selection of materials, delivering adaptive design, minimising energy use and managing light pollution. He pointed out that this approach aimed to support wayfinding, orientation and accessibility in Belfast.
He explained that the following considerations informed the approach, recommendations and design guidance as set out in the draft strategy: Connectivity; Sustainability; Quality; Safety; Security; Character and Culture; Human Centric; Accessibility; Economic Impact; Technology; Maintenance; Planning and Delivery.
He reported that the next steps for the development of the City Lighting Strategy included engagement and approval of the Strategy, the Strategy to be shared and promoted as guidance, ongoing development of a lighting Action Plan and delivery of projects in partnership with key agencies, together with alignment with city recovery priorities and funding opportunities with the Future City Centre programme including the Bolder Vision.
During discussion, Members suggested that the Shankill Gateway Junction could be included as a key gateway and the potential to align some of the lighting projects with hidden landmarks, such as the River Farset and the history of Belfast. The Committee welcomed the reduction of light pollution and sustainability of wildlife the strategy recommended.
After discussion, the Committee:
· Noted the information provided in the presentation by Park Hood consultants on the draft lighting strategy ‘Luminous City: A Lighting Strategy for Belfast’;
· Noted the findings and recommendations of the strategy and how this work related to other initiatives within the Future City Centre Programme and city recovery priorities, with proposals to bring forward pilot projects in line with the strategy and an emerging Action Plan; and
· Approved the draft strategy, subject to the consultation process as outlined in the report.