The Belfast Area Partnerships have called for “deeper holistic dialogue and engagement” amongst its respective local communities and citizens, a packed audience at Queen’s University Belfast has heard.

Hosted by the South Belfast Partnership Board, the first-ever city-wide consultation symposium took place on 29 March. Entitled ‘Leave no one behind – Towards a Local Development Plan for Belfast: A Community Perspective’, the consultation called for the city’s citizens to have a say in how Belfast will be shaped in the future.

The Belfast Area Partnerships wish to articulate the alliances, relationships and engagements between communities; the arts and cultural sector; health sector; education sector; between local authorities; and the private sector, including SMEs and developers.

“This symposium has proved that all members of our respective local communities want to drive Belfast forward in the best possible manner for all,” said Briege Arthurs, CEO of the South Belfast Partnership Board.

“By working with local people for a clear vision of how the council area should develop and what it will look like in the years to come, we are really embracing Belfast City Council’s Local Development Plan consultation.”

The symposium’s keynote speaker, the internationally-acclaimed urban specialist, Jackie Sadek, CEO of UK Regeneration, commented: “Having spent over 30 years working on large scale developments and regeneration projects, I cannot stress firmly enough the importance of early and meaningful engagement with your existing community. It isn’t just that it is only right and fair that the host community should share in the benefits forthcoming from any development, it is also that the enlightened developer or investor understands that the involvement of the host community will lead to a better outcome long term – a more harmonious, sustainable and enduring place.

“Belfast’s community is such a rich resource. If you are looking for experts in any location, look no further than the people who live there.”

Belfast City Council’s Local Development Plan has four key strands: creating a vibrant economy; shaping Belfast as a place to live in; ensuring a smart, connected and resilient location; and promoting Belfast as a green, active and lively city. Each theme was carefully dissected and discussed, with panellists from a range of sectors in attendance, including Brian Kingston, Lord Mayor of Belfast, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir MLA for South Belfast and Professor Paddy Gray, Ulster University.

“Yet we mustn’t forget about those with ‘missing voices’,” insists Michael Graham, Chair of the South Belfast Partnership Board. “The role that our multifaceted culture and arts scene, as well as our younger generation, plays should be taken into consideration. The discussions around this were engaging and thought provoking. I’m confident that Belfast will be in safe hands for future generations to enjoy.”

David Gavaghan, Chair of CBI NI, commented: “It is truly inspiring to see so many people from across Belfast discuss the city’s future.

“It is these people that help us project the future of Belfast to a global market, such as at MIPIM earlier this month, recognising the wonderful things that have been taking place in our city.”