Thursday, 04 January 2018, 6-9pm

Opening hours

Tues- Fri, 1-5pm, Sat 12-4pm

Who owns the City?

Urban planning, citizen participation and forms of protest

Ends 20 January 2018

Talks, presentations, discussions

Friday, 12 January, 3-6pm. With Rebekah McCabe, Chair of Save CQ, Belfast; Emma Curtin, University Liverpool; Kevin Flanagan, Galway; Sean Brady, PPR Belfast;... chaired by Prof Ruth Morrow, Queen's University.
Friday 19 January Time: 5-7pm Location: 11 North Street Participants: Tbc


Governmental Planning Portal with plans for Royal Exchange

Architects Royal Exchange

Developper: Catlebrooke Investments

Belfast City Centre Regeneration Proposals

Save CQ

Future Belfast

Named and Shamed


Market campaign, Twitter


Participation and the Practice of Rights PPR

MCE public relations

Belfast Building Trust

Ulster Architectural Heritage Society



Saskia Sassen: Who owns the city

Park Fiction, Hamburg:

Christoph Schäfer: The city is unwritten

Friday 12 January: Participants

Rebekah McCabe is campaign chair of Save CQ. She works as a Creative Producer at PLACE, Northern Ireland's built environment centre, and is completing a PhD on the topic of urban sustainability, neighbourhood regeneration and the contestation of space.

Kevin Flanagan is a PhD candidate at the Department of Anthropology, National University of Ireland Maynooth, where he is researching Social Movements and Urban Commons in Europe. Kevin previously worked with The P2P Foundation, an international network of researchers and activists with a focus on commons and the collaborative economy. As an activist Kevin works with community and cultural groups advocating for economic democracy and solidarity economics.

Ruth Morrow is Professor of Architecture in the School of the Natural and Built Environment, Queen’s University Belfast. Her research is practice led, though framed by a body of critical writing, and is defined by an ethos of inclusion, design excellence and collaboration. Her work falls across two areas: 1. Spatial activism: Where she works with the art organisation, PS2 in Belfast on critical sites in Northern Ireland and is also responsible for Street Society / Studio – a live project studio, running since 2009 at QUB and 2. Material Practice: where she works with multiple disciplines to evolve building components from a design-led material understanding.

Emma Curtin is a lecturer in architecture at Liverpool University. Her background is in architectural practice, but current efforts to influence the built environment of Manchester are through activism, rather than building- focused design. This involves participation in democratic processes surrounding the built environment, such as the Public Inquiry into the closure of Library Walk. Through involvement with campaigns like the Friends of London Fire Station she has also applied a more pro-active approach, engaging local people, and using unsolicited architectural proposals to challenge the dominant vision for the future of a site and open up discussion.

Seán Brady is an organiser with the Participation and Practice of Rights Organisation. PPR put the power of human rights at the disposal of marginalised communities. PPR currently support campaigns led by tower black residents, homeless families, refugees, asylum seekers, travellers and people living in poor accommodation in three jurisdictions – north and south of the Irish border and Scotland. Seán has also spent the last 18 months travelling to learn from housing campaigners in South Africa and the USA.


Who owns the City? will focus on local and trans-local campaigns and citizen initiatives concerned with urban planning and democratic participation throughout the city and few other places in the UK and Europe.
It will provide an open forum to document the concerns and tactics of local protest and initiatives around issues of the built environment. It will demonstrate, how planning processes work in Northern Ireland and perhaps highlight gaps in real participation, citizen’s concerns and inclusion in decision making.
The project hopes to present alternatives for a democratic planning structure and creative actions to achieve this.

Ideally this will assist in:

-a greater awareness of and literacy in urban built environment issues

-support a common platform for all local initiatives

-help build a toolkit, how to access information, examples of local urban initiatives and protest

-assist in building a platform for local and translocal networking.


Friday, 12 January, first session

Since a few weeks, diggers, lorries and scaffolding indicate the start of the planned ‘regeneration’ project, ‘Royal Exchange’, in the Cathedral Quarter, Belfast.

‘BELFAST: CHANGE FOR THE GOOD OF THE CITY’ is the slogan on the website of the developers Castlebrook . But what are the plans exactly? How were they agreed upon and by whom? And was that it? -those few hours of public consultation on the top floor of the MAC, known only by the most informed? And do developers take any notice of those objections anyway?

With the existing plans of the Cathedral Quarter (CQ) and specifically North Street as the starting point,Who owns the City? will escape getting lost in plans, and try instead to find ways to achieve a better, democratic urban planning system. PS² declares that it has a more than everyday interest in the redevelopment since, as a consequence, it will have to move out of CQ by April 2018.

Who owns the city? is an attempt to understand and seek ways of participation in urban planning and includes 4 sections:

1] the most recent large scale plans of the Royal Exchange development- inviting visitors to contribute their views to the increasing debate that in recent days saw critical comments both by Bishop of Connor Rt Rev Alan Abernethy (see) and the Belfast Building Trust (see) in the Belfast Telegraph, echoing concerns of the SAVE CQ campaign.

2] other urban developments and campaigns across the city (with film documentations by NVTV)

3] outline the existing planning process in Northern Ireland and invites comments for a change towards more democratic citizen participation

4] the tools, tactics and strategies of legal protest.

Who owns the City? 3D viewl of proposed redevelopment, Cathedral Quarter. Source: MCE

Who owns the City? 3D viewl of proposed redevelopment, Cathedral Quarter. Source: MCE


A lot of work is already being done by campaigning groups around different areas in Belfast and other places in this country, most notably in our own area- the Cathedral Quarter- by Save CQ.

The project depends very much on the support and knowledge of campaigning citizens, community organisations and planning/architecture specialists.

Ruth Morrow is the curatorial adviser for this project.

After considerable objections by Belfast citizens and stakeholders, the planning design was given to a new firm of architects and the scheme was re-branded 'Tribeca'. The public consultation ended in August 2019.

Image top: Protest by campaigners across the city in front of the MAC, Belfast.