Women in Property NI in conjunction with Cleaver Fulton Rankin held the first event in its ‘Visible Women’ series, bringing together three leaders from Northern Ireland’s built environment sector to discuss urbanisation in the local context.
The Visible Women series features speakers with expertise and success in their fields who are well placed to deliver key note talks on a variety of topics. The speakers at the launch event, entitled ‘Urban Living’, were Joan McCoy, Director at White Ink Architects and current President of the RSUA, Cathy Reynolds, City Regeneration & Development Director at Belfast City Council and Susan Mason, Head of RICS NI, Director Kathryn Collie and Associate Kathleen Gillespie of Cleaver Fulton Rankin chairing proceedings.
Joan McCoy opened by daring the audience to imagine what it might be like if the Westlink were buried under a tunnel with a park built across the top, inspired by Hamburg’s Autobahn 7. Continuing with a theme of “grey to green”, Joan highlighted the role of green infrastructure in development proposals and pressed for higher standards in design elements such as open space, aspect and affordability. Drawing comparisons with city centre schemes in other cities, Joan noted that Belfast could make even greater use of its river frontage and challenged the city to start thinking of housing as infrastructure, á la Vienna, where high quality, affordable housing is offered to all citizens.
Cathy Reynolds followed to give an overview of the Belfast Region City Deal and how this feeds into the Council’s City Centre Regeneration Strategy and the Local Development Plan 2035. Cathy considered the Council’s recognised challenges for increased city centre living including the need to tackle dereliction, improve our aging and inadequate infrastructure and increase the amount of green, open, family centre spaces within the city. In addition, she emphasised the successes to date including the clear commitment to our city centre evidenced by companies such as Allstate, Kainos, Deloitte, PwC, HMRC and the student accommodation investments from both Ulster and Queens Universities.
Susan Mason then concluded the presentations by setting out the challenges presented by increases in Belfast city centre living and the importance of ensuring that ensuing development should act as a driver for prosperity, sustainability and wellbeing. Susan also highlighted the skills shortage in the built environment industries particularly in Northern Ireland and noted the impact this would have on any prospective development schemes. Susan considered how we might encourage young people to embark on careers in industries such as surveying, engineering, planning, etc. and the role to play for organisations such as Women in Property and its member firms in engaging with schools and universities.
Cleaver Fulton Rankin was delighted to host this informative event in conjunction with Women in Property NI.
Image: (L to R) Joan McCoy; Kathryn Collie; Kathleen Gillespie; Susan Mason; and Cathy Reynolds.