A cross-party group of Assembly Members in South Belfast have come together to call for work to begin on constructing a new foot and cycle bridge across the Lagan first announced in 2014.
The Lagan Pedestrian and Cycle bridge connecting Ormeau Park to the city centre through the Gasworks Business Park would dramatically improve connectivity from the southeast of the city and reduce traffic congestion by making it easier for people to walk and cycle.
Planning permission was granted for the bridge in April 2016 but MLAs fear the project may not get underway as, under the law, work is required to begin within five years, meaning permission will run out in 2021.
In a joint statement, the South Belfast MLAs Clare Bailey, Green Party; Paula Bradshaw, Alliance; Claire Hanna, SDLP and Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, Sinn Féin said:
“Building this bridge would open up the potential for many more people to walk or cycle into the city for work, to shop or for leisure. It is the only City Deal-referenced project which has planning permission and should be green-lighted now. This bridge will reduce traffic congestion, air pollution and improve residents’ health and wellbeing. It would also connect different parts of the city, boost user numbers in Ormeau Park and encourage more pedestrians and cyclists to use the Lagan towpath.”
Delighted to join fellow South Belfast MLAs to support delivery of pedestrian & cycle bridge across the Lagan linking Gasworks to Ravenhill. @SustransNI & @nigreenways giving great leadership on necessary transformation of city to enhance cycling & improve health of populace. 🚴🏾♂️ pic.twitter.com/TEQ4EEdDYu
— Máirtín Ó Muilleoir (@newbelfast) August 20, 2019
Sustrans Northern Ireland Director, Ashley Hunter described the bridge as having the potential to transform people’s commute and air quality in this inner city area.
“Given the serious problems of car congestion in the city, we welcome the cross-party support for this bridge which will have a transformative effect on south Belfast by boosting walking and cycling. There is no reason why construction work should not begin straight away to complete this project. We would also like this bridge to be a catalyst for the full implementation of the Belfast Bicycle Network to provide safe cycling infrastructure, encouraging people out of their cars and making Belfast a truly sustainable, resilient city fit for the 21st century.”
The Lagan bridge could cost between £7 and £9 million to build and has already cost nearly half a million pounds of public funds to develop the plans.
As the only major project in the City Deal package which is effectively shovel-ready it could have been the lead-off project. Instead no-one has been able to say when it will break ground, or even if it will be constructed. The planning permission issue may serve to sharpen minds, but even if the money is under Belfast City Council’s control the actual delivery is going to be down to the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) and that’s usually where active travel projects goes to die, slowly and painfully.
So for MLAs and councillors there’s a clear set of questions which need to be asked of Council officers and DfI:
- Is there a date for construction to begin (even indicative?)
- Does the decision to green light the project lie with Belfast City Council or DfI?
- If there is a hold-up, what is it? Finance? Priority?