A positive case for the bridge linking Ormeau Park and Gasworks

There is a proposal from the Department of Regional Development for a bridge linking the Gasworks with Ormeau Park in South Belfast. Alliance party councillor, Emmet McDonough-Brown writes for us arguing for the bridge…

Belfast is a city on the rise.  As we emerge from conflict we find our city growing in confidence and ready to claim its place in these islands as a fantastic place to live in, work in and raise a family in.  Along the way we have had some difficult moments but in my mind there is only one direction of travel for Belfast: forward.

At Belfast City Council’s planning committee last week Councillors were asked to consider a proposal from DRD for a bridge to take walkers and cyclists across the Lagan between the Gasworks and the Ormeau Park.  This bridge would be a major (£7m) infrastructure investment in the city, connecting communities with opportunities as well as transforming walking and cycling routes in south and east Belfast.  There were no objections received by planners from the surrounding areas or from statutory consultees.  It was narrowly passed by seven votes to six when the unionist parties united to try and deny these benefits to our city and our communities.  They stated that the bridge could become an interface.  Clearly, they believe that the future belongs to separation rather than integration.

Alliance voted in favour of the bridge, because we see the opportunities that connecting communities brings in a divided society.  We understand that change is not always easy, but we recognise how far we have travelled towards a reconciled society, as well as how far we have yet to journey.  Regardless of your community background, a bridge at this location opens up the Gasworks as a site of opportunity for local people, affords greater access to the beautiful Ormeau Park, and encourages walking and cycling.  This is a scheme which benefits both the neighbourhoods it immediately connects and helps weave together the city as a whole.

It is disappointing that unionist colleagues could not see the potential of this scheme to deliver benefits for their constituents.  Bridges are powerful manifestations of reconciliation.  True leadership would have been to build the peace with those afraid of their neighbours.

Here is a discussion of this issue on the Nolan Show

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  • Ernekid

    In any other city in the world would people oppose trying to improve the cities cycling and pedestrian infrastructure? Putting a direct link between the City Centre and Ormeau Park seems like a rather good idea. I’m surprised they haven’t done it sooner.

    It’s nuts that they are literally and figuratively opposed to building bridges

  • Graham Parsons

    The problem with this is that it seems to be a stand alone project rather than part of a long term strategic plan for Belfast.

    Instead of a rush to the bottom in terms of cutting corporation tax, N.Ireland and Belfast should be providing other pull factors for inward investment and to encourage young people to stay and build businesses here. For example;

    1. Set a zero carbon N.Ireland target for say 2030.

    2. As per Odense in Denmark focus on transforming Belfast
    into a more livable city.

    http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/jan/21/odense-post-industrial-city-liveable-hi-tech-hub-cycling

    3. Properly invest in a segregated cycling network in Belfast. With some creative thinking there’s plenty of room to do this along existing transport corridors.

    4. Cut, freeze or preferably eliminate student fees.

    5. Ramp up investment in Software and STEM subject training across all education tiers.

  • barnshee

    Ormeau and the east towards Ravenhill and Rosetta are up and coming with houses appreciating nicely. The last thing they want is a link to the markets area .
    Add in the Prod/Mick/middle class horror of close association with the inner city problems and opposition is inevitable.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    ” Will Open up the Gasworks for Economical Opportunity for People” What a lot of Bollicks ! Such a statement does not wash with the people and communities who live around the gasworks site, very few have jobs or employment opportunities within this so called economic business hub !

  • I like this idea, saves the troop to the Ormeau Bridge or the lower Ravenhill Road if you want to cross the Lagan. It’s telling that a bridge couldn’t avoid politicisation.

  • Zorin001

    I walk the area on a weekly basis and I would love easier access to Ormeau Park without having to take an extra 10 – 15 minutes of my lunch break walking either towards the Lower Ormeau or back towards town.

    Theres already an interface area across the Albertbridge, a bridge further down the river really isn’t in the right location for there to be trouble.

  • Jarl Ulfreksfjordr

    I’m a big fan of bridges in all their forms, although ones with a little architectural and sculptural integrity would be my favourites.

    That being said I’d prefer a two-bridge option for the Gasworks site – or anything to separate pedestrians from cyclists. I’ve become cheesed-off by having to dodge cyclists when walking in Belfast.

    Now other than crossing them I don’t generally walk on the roads so I’m talking about pavements and pedestrian zones here. Coming out of a shop in the city centre the other day I avoided being mowed down by a cyclist by the skin of my teeth, and not for the first time either.

    The problem has got worse with the introduction of the bike hire scheme in the city. Are the people hiring bikes not required to demonstrate some basic understanding of cycling etiquette?

    I’m fast approaching the time when I will begin to take the ‘Dutch Option’ and start throwing bikes into the river. I may allow the riders to remain on land; or not as the case may be.

    So another ‘shared’ space for cyclists and pedestrians would be a bridge too far for me.

    Phew, thanks. I needed that.

  • Mac an Aistrigh

    Does anyone know why the footbridge at the Lagan Lookout had to be replaced so soon?

  • Zorin001

    While I agree to a certain extent its a two way street (pun slightly intended), considering some of the near misses I have seen with law abiding cyclists nearly being pummelled by drivers either through carelessness or what sometimes seems like blatant bullying to the point of near attempted murder.

    But like yourself I can count numerous occasions of near misses from cyclists who appear oblivious to the rules of the road (or pavement), one gentleman on the main Bangor to Belfast Road at home times comes to mind.

    We don’t really have a cycling culture here to rival Europe, and I think our recent attempt to introduce one full pelt isn’t exactly successful.

  • Karl

    “….invest in a segregated cycling network…”
    I fail to see how catholic and protestant cycle paths with help.

  • barnshee

    Cracker

  • Jarl Ulfreksfjordr

    I’ve never understood the aggression some drivers show towards cyclists. Granted a minority of cycle riders can be a pain at times but none of their occasional transgressions deserve a punishment of serious injury, or even death.

    Compared to drivers cyclists are awfully vulnerable yet some travelling in their heavy steel cocoons seem oblivious to that fact. Perhaps it’s all about power, a sort of primeval hunter and prey thing?

    In the same way when the cyclist is king of the pedestrian jungle they also view those on foot like walking wilderbeasts to be hunted down and hung trophy-like on handlebars?

  • Ryan A

    I suppose telling Unionists to dry their eyes, build themselves a bridge and get it over it is inappropriate in this situation…

  • Sherdy

    That looks like an ironwork bridge, so they can call it the Ellis Trellis!

  • afghanistanbananastand

    The footbridge took its original form for a decade, according to this site:

    http://www.futurebelfast.com/lagan-weir-footbridge.html

    That original design was simply unable to cope with the volumes of traffic now using it. In particular, it was too narrow for cyclists and pedestrians to share safely. I cycled across the old bridge myself some years back, and it was far from ideal. Given the subsequent development in the area, widening was overdue. I’ve cycled over the replacement and it is massively more suitable for shared use.

    Going by the (mainly pedestrian) traffic I saw crossing it yesterday at lunchtime, I believe it was a good investment. Whether it should have been built to the current standard the first time round remains debatable, I think.

  • afghanistanbananastand

    Having worked in the Gasworks myself at one point, I would point out that there was no postcode bar to prevent locals from being employed. The lack of specific skills in the local population was the only barrier to entry.

    My erstwhile employer, like many in the IT sector at present, would have snapped up anyone with the skills needed to do the job. To this end, they participating in schemes aimed at attracting people from non-IT backgrounds into the industry, with some notable successes.

    The question for the local community should be “why do our young people not have the skills required to land the jobs right on their doorsteps”. And that question should be directed to their political representatives.

    The jobs are there. The people are there. Bridging (sorry) the two is not, surely, beyond the wit of man?

  • Cosmo

    Would it be feasible for the bridge to be designed and fabricated in Belfast, using and developing existing skills and workshops?
    or is that against ‘best’ practice and laws in purchasing?

  • T.E.Lawrence

    “The question for the local community should be why do our young people not have the skills required to land the jobs right on their doorsteps” ?
    The local children where thrown on the scrap heap once they were born in that inner city locality and such educational skills never came their way as they were all labelled “failure” at the age of 11 years old ! So how the FK are they going to learn or get IT and High Tech Employment Vocational Certificates to be employed in Super Business Employment Wonderland built in the Middle off them ?
    “And that question should be directed to their political representatives ? ” I will let the political author of the piece answer that in his most Spinning Words !
    Thanks for that wonderful last statement “beyond the wit of man” Ah yes in normal speak ! Fk the Low Underclass people (In your opinion) who live in the centre of Belfast.
    Be careful of that “Wit of Man” ? Some day you might meet it in the locality that has been discussed above.
    Picture of Belfast Gasworks and Real Living Communities around it 1966.

  • afghanistanbananastand

    Erm – I was kind of suggesting in my comment that the local youngsters had been let down by the education they have received, not that they were stupid. I thought that was quite clear. (And I think it is the same point you are struggling to make).

    “The wit of man” remark was directed at those responsible for this state of affairs, not the youngsters themselves. The politicians and educationalists who have presided over this should be ashamed of themselved.

    By the way, your veiled threats are as pathetic as they are misdirected, but I’ll not be bothering any further with you since you are clearly not interested in a civilised discussion.

  • Gingray

    Um, you really have no idea of the geography there now do you!

    Living in these areas and cycling to work, I can tell you that Ormeau is already linked to the markets (Ormeau road) and people on the Ravenhill and Cregagh area are crying out for a bridge that will save them time on their commute.