Belfast THRIVES, a pilot research project between Belfast City Council and Ulster University to better inform decisions for enhancing the liveability of the city, was launched this week.

Saul Golden, Ulster University Lecturer and Project Lead, said building a better Belfast was core to the initiative.

“The outcomes we are jointly working towards are significant for this city," he said. "They include policy papers and recommendations for data-sharing and health and liveability criteria which will inform strategic decisions, interventions, and investment toward a more inclusive, liveable, and sustainable Belfast with wellbeing at its heart.”

The programme will study holistic health and wellbeing-led models for planning, designing and managing the city centre’s public spaces for the long-term and to respond to immediate health and socio-economic threats from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Lord Mayor, Alderman Frank McCoubrey, said the launch came as one of the toughest times in the city's history was coming to a close. 

“It has been a year of great challenge for the health and wellbeing of the people of Belfast and beyond," he said. "Quality outdoor spaces and active travel routes contribute to good health and mental wellbeing which have never been as important to our citizens as they are now. Our aim is to diversify the city centre and improve connectivity to bring better health outcomes for those who call it home.”

A multi-disciplinary team of researchers from Ulster University's Belfast School of Architecture (Urban Research Lab) and the Built Environment and School of Psychology (The Bamford Centre for Mental Health and Wellbeing) are working jointly with a team from Council's City Regeneration & Development team to deliver this research.

The research will focus on three specific areas of the city centre: Linen Quarter public realm pop-ups, the Dublin Road Corridor cycle lanes and Cathedral Gardens Plaza-Play Park, adjacent to Ulster University’s brand new Belfast campus. These BID, DfI, DfC and council-led transformations will inform future city centre investment and infrastructure strategies.

Minister for Communities Deirdre Hargey gave the plan the thumbs-up. “Supporting this research project is an important aspect in helping us better understand the devastating impacts of the health pandemic, particularly on our health and well-being, and importantly how we can better respond to ensure that, together, Belfast City Centre returns to a vibrant and inviting destination for all," she said.