News is moving fast these days, what with daily constitutional crises providing occasional distractions from the high season of reality TV, but something of note may have evaded the general public’s gaze a few weeks ago.
The Belfast Region City Deal, an ambitious programme of economic investment, received a funding green light during Budget 2019. The £350m announced by Chancellor Philip Hammond is expected to be matched by the NI Executive, with the six councils involved contributing another £100 million. In all, with expectations of direct private investment, more than £1bn is expected to be in the final 10 year programme.
Leafing through the summary proposal document (PDF, 6MB) brings you to the Infrastructure section, with just three projects listed:
- Newry Southern Relief Road
- Belfast Rapid Transit (BRT) Phase II
- Lagan Bridge – Gasworks to Ormeau Embankment
So (nips to Lidl, buys cheap champagne, considers putting it on ice) does this mean the Gasworks Bridge is about to be announced? We asked Belfast City Council if it were so, what the budget shortfall (about £100m) means for the project, and lots of other questions.
A spokesperson said:
“We’re delighted with the announcement of £350 million investment from Treasury in the Autumn Budget, which secures a City Deal for the Belfast Region.
We have been working intensively with our BRCD partners to secure a package of co-investment, that will deliver a significant boost to the local economy in terms of inclusive economic growth and job creation.
The Belfast City Region will benefit directly through investment in infrastructure, however it is not yet clear what the impact of the reduced investment package will mean for our overall programme and how this will be reflected in the Heads of Terms.
Over the coming weeks, we will be finalising our Programme of investment with partners. A Heads of Terms document will then be signed by the Secretary of State and BRCD partners, to allow full business plans to be prepared for our proposals and investment to be released.
That’s a polite “we’ll let you know when we let you know” but we’ll content ourselves that it wasn’t a “no” at this stage.
We have many more questions – cost, priority within the city deal, timescale, connection works, the planning permission running out next spring, if the name will be confirmed as the Hume Dunlop Bridge – but we’re hopeful to get those answered if there’s proper confirmation soon.
The Gasworks Bridge matters greatly to the future of active travel in Belfast as it would provide an exclusively traffic-free new transport corridor in the city, linking directly onto the main cycling ‘highway’ through the city, the Laganside path. It would see investment to turn Ormeau Park into a 24 hour city centre park with lit paths, in turn linking via probable quietway developments in the Ravenhill area towards the Connswater Greenway at Cregagh.
The Hume Dunlop Bridge is truly one of the cornerstones of the future cycling network, and may have just (quietly) got the go-ahead.