The SDLP have met with the largest retail trade union in the North to discuss job losses in the sector in Belfast.

Councillors Carl Whyte and Brian Heading met with representatives from USDAW at at time when a number of large retailers have announced that they are closing in Belfast.

“Councillor Whyte and I welcomed the opportunity to meet with a representative from USDAW, a trade union representing retail workers across the North,” said Cllr Heading.

“We met against a worrying backdrop of job losses with the closure of Tesco Metro announced just says ago.

"We discussed how Belfast City Council can support those critical workers, in retail and hospitality and we committed to engaging with officials to do what we can.

"We also committed to, working with the SDLP Assembly team, to press the Minister for Economy to develop a support package for retail workers.”

He continued: “ It is vital that we start to reimagine our city centre and think creatively about ways to revitalise it, to the benefit of citizens, businesses and workers.

"We need to create an environment which encourages people to visit and use the centre of Belfast in new, safe and sustainable ways.

“This was a positive engagement and we will continue to stand up for our critical retails workers in the coming weeks and months.”

The meeting comes as Belfast City Council and Executive Ministers gave their backing to an ambitious blueprint to explore a shared approach to creating a more attractive, accessible, safe and vibrant city centre.

The ‘Bolder Vision’ document – which follows a joint study by Belfast City Council, Department for Infrastructure and Department for Communities – outlines a progressive and wide-reaching vision to significantly reimagine Belfast city centre with the focus moving to a greener, walkable and connected core that is more people and family-focussed.

Lord Mayor Alderman Frank McCoubrey said: “A ‘Bolder Vision’ looks at ways of reimagining the city’s heart and key connections to local communities, where streets and open spaces are designed to meet the changing needs of a diverse range of users – as well as supporting existing businesses and encouraging inclusive growth.

“As the city begins its recovery post-Covid, and with the challenges that will remain in the coming months as we continue to deal with the current pandemic, there is renewed emphasis on how we use our city centre spaces safely, allowing for social distancing."