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Belfast-THRI(VES) is a pilot, practical research project between Ulster University and Belfast City Council (BCC) to support BCC and the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) to better inform decisions for enhancing the liveability of the city and wellbeing of its inhabitants.

This innovative pilot programme has been launched to 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.

A multi-disciplinary team of researchers from Ulster’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 Belfast City Council’s City Regeneration & Development team to deliver this research.

Key areas of research

  1. how to better plan for and design public spaces to recognise and encourage use by all people, including often marginalised populations;
  2. managing public parks, plazas, streets and underutilised spaces such as parking areas for diverse uses encouraging more cycling and walking, and pairing leisure and commerce with delivering vital public services;
  3. proposing post-occupancy tools (evaluation methods for buildings completed and occupied) to better connect liveability and wellbeing data across public, private, and voluntary sectors, to inform future projects.

Who will benefit?

  • The public and community, especially those who live, work and visit Belfast: the researchers will seek inclusive engagement on their diverse health-focused needs and decisions impacting this audience
  • Policy-makers: through objective evaluation of decision-making processes on pilot interventions
  • Project Partners, Contributors and Advisors: will benefit from cross-sector working and data sharing, disseminating expertise together with on-the-ground evidence to inform policy, practice, and further research
  • Ulster University Students: those directly involved through experience and learning from research-led teaching addressing real-world issues, and all those who will attend the new Campus

Belfast Liveability Survey

Following the successful symposium on 16-17 June 2021, the THRI(VES) Team developed an anonymous public survey that focused on finding out more about people's perceptions of liveability of Belfast's public spaces - how the city is currently performing across a range of themes, and views on recent changes in the city.

The survey closed on 20th of August 2021 and all anonymous responses received underwent analysis alongside workshops to dig deeper with stakeholder groups. We put together the following overview video below and the detailed analysis is captured in our Project Report, issued November 2023, available to download here with deeper lessons, case studies and recommendations from the project findings.

Belfast Liveability Survey Initial Findings


On 16th and 17th June, the Belfast THRI(VES) Team from Ulster University and Belfast City Council hosted a free online Webinar and Symposium to share and explore lessons on balancing the needs of people, business, and public services in decision-making to transform city spaces into more connected, inclusive, liveable, and sustainable places.

The events were funded through Belfast City Council via the Department for Communities Covid-19 Recovery Revitalisation Programme, and the Department for Infrastructure, and launched by welcome messages from DfC Minister Deirdre Hargey and DfI Minister Nichola Mallon.

Over both days, international and Northern Ireland0-based Speakers and panels brought together academic, business, Government and community voices to collectively address common social, economic, and public health challenges to reshape and reopen public spaces in transformative ways.

Outcomes included sharing insights into core issues impacting on the delivery of different projects to reshape the public realm and the evidence needed to support liveable city policy, planning, and design initiatives.

Video recordings of both days' full line-up of speakers and presentations noted in the following programme recap can be accessed through the links below.

16th June 2021, 6-8pm GMT: International Lessons on Urban Health and Wellbeing

  • Host and Facilitator: Dr Wendy Austin, MBE, Journalist and Broadcaster
  • 6.00pm: Welcome, Host Introduction, and Launch
  • 6.20pm: THRI(VES), Dr Saul M Golden RIBA, Lecturer in Architecture and Spatial Design, Ulster University
  • 6.30-7.30pm: Keynote speakers (15-minute presentations each).
    • Dr Gina Lovasi, Co-Director, Urban Health Collaborative, Dornsife Associate Professor of Urban Health, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Drexel University, Philadelphia, USA:
      • Leveraging data, research, education, and partnerships to improve health in cities.
    • Rick Mohler FAIA, Co-Chair, Seattle Planning Commission; Associate Professor of Architecture, University of Washington; Seattle, USA:
      • Lessons from The Seattle Street Sink and Stay Healthy Streets Initiative.
    • Frith Walker, Head of Placemaking, Panuku Development Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland), NZ:
      • Why public space matters: Auckland’s Public-Private Partnerships and Place-led Approach to Urban Development
    • Pagan-Lilley Phillips, Programme Manager, Public Practice, Access and Inclusion Advocate, London, UK:
      • Planning for the Public Good: Advocacy and Action to Build Local Council Capacity and Drive Forward Better Shared Urban Futures
  • 7.30pm: Discussion and Q&A with Speakers, Facilitated by Dr Wendy Austin, MBE
  • 7.50-8.00pm: Evening Session Close; Dr Saul M Golden; Dr Wendy Austin, MBE

17th June 2021, 9.00am – 12.30pm and 1.00pm – 3.00pm: A Belfast View to Healthy Futures + Next Generation Research on Healthy City Futures

Session 1: 9am-12.30pm GMT+1 A Belfast View  Host: Dr Saul M Golden

  • 9am: Welcome back, Keynote Speakers, followed by THRI(VES) Belfast Panel Introductions
    • Cathy Reynolds, Director of City Regeneration & Development, Belfast City Council: Future City Centre Programme – reimagining and revitalising our city centre spaces and places.
    • Liz Loughran, Director of Transport Policy, Department for Infrastructure: Active Travel & Partnership Working
  • 10.00-10.40: Liveable cities: Where is the evidence and how should we use it?
    • Chair: Professor Gerry Leavey, Director Bamford Centre for Mental Health & Wellbeing
    • Administrative Data Research NI, Elizabeth Nelson, Public Engagement, Comms & Impact Mgr;
    • Belfast City Centre Management, David Scott, Project Manager;
    • Belfast Healthy Cities, Joan Devlin, Chief Executive;
    • Mental Health Foundation, Shari McDaid, Head of Evidence and Impact for Scotland and NI;
    • Ulster University, Kieran Carlin, Phd Researcher.
  • 10.45-11.25: Public voices & public places: Engagement for vibrancy and equality
    • Chair: Professor Duncan Morrow, Director of Community Engagement, Ulster University
    • AGENI, Mandy Wilson, Head of Health & Wellbeing;
    • Belfast Charitable Society-Clifton House, Paula Reynolds, CEO;
    • Bryson CARE-Migrant Help, Lilian Vellem, Senior Client Advisor;
    • Inclusive Mobility and Transport Advisory Committee (IMTAC), Michael Lorimer, Director;
    • NI Women’s European Platform, Jonna Monaghan, Director.
  • 11.30-12.10: Balancing private investment & public interest in sustainable healthy places.
    • Chair: Dr Gavan Rafferty, RTPI, Lecturer in Spatial Planning & Development, Ulster University
    • Belfast Chamber of Commerce, Simon Hamilton, Chief Executive;
    • Department for Infrastructure, Catherine McKinney, Senior Planning Officer
    • Linen Quarter Business Improvement District (BID), Christopher McCracken, Managing Director;
    • Ulster University Youth Forum, Andrew Holmes, Student Representative;
    • Urban Scale Interventions, Mura Quigley, Associate Director.
  • 12.10pm: Session 1 Overview and Research Next Steps; Session Close. Dr Saul M Golden

Session 2: 1.00 – 3.00pm GMT+1 Next Generation Capacity Builders -Host: Dr Gavan Rafferty RTPI, Lecturer in Spatial Planning & Development, Ulster University

  • 1.00–1.45pm: Keynote Speaker and Q&A Session
    • Keynote: Erin Donaldson, MRTPI, Planning Women of Influence 2021; Founding member of Women in Planning Network NI.
  • 1.50pm: MSc Planning, Regeneration, and Development Research Presentations
    • Facilitator: Dr Linda McElduff, Lecturer in Planning, Course Director MSc Planning, Regeneration and Development, Ulster University
    • Jonah Carty: Regeneration and community-stakeholder engagement for greater liveability.
    • Niamh McDevitt: Why walking matters: A review of walkability assessment tools in Northern Ireland
    • Niall Carr: Smart Cities and privacy challenges – managing safer places
    • Lauren Coulter: River walkways: Impacts of blue-infrastructure on individual health & wellbeing
  • 2.40pm: Panel Discussion and Q&A with Speakers and Respondents, Facilitated by Dr Linda McElduff
    • Professor Janet Askew, RTPI, Consultant Town Planner, Past-President RTPI 2015
    • Susannah Boyce, MSc PRD, UPLAN (Ulster University Society of Planning Students)
  • 2.55pm: Event Close, Thank you. THRI(VES) Research Partnership Team


The project is funded through Belfast City Council via the Department for Communities (DfC) Covid-19 Recovery Revitalisation Programme and the Department for Infrastructure (DfI).

THRI(VES) Partnership Team

Final Project Report

The full report includes ten recommendations and broader, deeper lessons on urban health and liveability from place-based analysis of public realm projects in Belfast, international case studies, anonymous surveys, and literature reviews.

The final report is now available to view

View the full report page on Pure