“I have asked the consultants to consider carefully the matter..”

The recipient of the inaugural Slugger Award for MLAs, the Alliance Party’s Naomi Long, co-sponsored a private members motion in the Northern Ireland Assembly on Monday. It passed without the need for a division. Here’s the motion in question.

That this Assembly acknowledges the health benefits that outdoor exercise offers children and adults, including positive mental well-being; recognises that safe walking and cycling routes contribute greatly to this and are in short supply in urban areas; and calls on the Minister for Regional Development to preserve safe pedestrian and cyclist access on the Comber Greenway.

The Comber Greenway Campaign is seeking to change the ministerial mind which proposes adding a bus-based rapid transport route to the “safe and pleasant recreational walking and cycling” “traffic-free” route. Whether any of that will affect a ministerial mind which has been assured by consultants that “there is the ability to fit both systems side by side” isn’t clear.. It wouldn’t be the first time the Legislative Assembly was ignored.. The other co-sponsor of the motion, PUP MLA Dawn Purvis, was on Stormont Live on Monday.

And here’s the Regional Development Minister, Sinn Féin’s Conor Murphy, during the debate.

“I am fully aware of the sensitivity of developing the Comber Greenway for walking, cycling and rapid transit. The Committee for Regional Development raised that issue following its examination of the strategic outline case. Some Members have questioned whether there is enough room to develop a rapid-transit system alongside the walking and cycling track. I have twice asked the consultants to consider the issue, and they have assured me that there is enough room to develop both systems side by side. I would not for one minute try to mislead the House and say that the current nature of the Comber Greenway will not change — obviously it will change if a rapid-transit system uses it. However, I have asked the consultants to consider carefully the matter, and they have assured me that there is the ability to fit both systems side by side, and to retain cycling and walking along the Comber Greenway.

As our plans develop, my officials will continue to meet a range of key stakeholders including representatives of the greenway to Stay group, Sustrans, Mersey Street residents’ association and the East Belfast Partnership.

I assure Members that we have already secured developer contributions for the rapid-transit system, and we will continue to seek other developer contributions when the possibility arises. I am establishing a dedicated rapid-transit delivery team. Following Executive approval, I intend to proceed to the detailed design of the network, which will allow us to examine its full particulars.”

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  • womens_weekly

    Perhaps we should be giving her another award?

  • Dec

    The Comber Greenway Campaign is seeking to change the ministerial mind which proposes adding a bus-based rapid transport route to the “safe and pleasant recreational walking and cycling” “traffic-free” route.

    Pretty feeble attempt at muck-raking especially given Murphy’s robust response. However the ministerial mind might be more amenable to the concerns of The Comber Greenway Campaign if their website was run by someone who a) can spell and b) has even a faint grasp of grammar.

  • who, me

    I thought Alliance policy was pro-public transport?

    Or is this just shameless pandering to constituents. Hardly the mark of a first rate representative….

  • willis

    I for one cannot see how sharing is possible at all points on the route. Anyone got a link to the Consultant’s proposal? The DRD link didn’t work for me.

  • DC

    Ah c’mon Dec, Murphy wont care about spelling in particular as didn’t Martina Anderson say that it shouldn’t be viewed as totally important especially at constituent level re message delivery.

    “I thought Alliance policy was pro-public transport?”

    And what do you think preserving cycle and pedestrian lanes is about, is it not public transport for the public except without the fuel and fumes?

    Anyway it was a better campaign than the stupid stunt Copeland did pre-election, when he was spotted sitting outside his constituency office protesting about house prices with his little Streets of Philadelphia fire burning beside him. Little did he know and the little he still does is that his little narrow sectional mind couldn’t grasp the global nature of the problem.

    Highlighting once again the inward nature of unionism and its pending redundancy in a multicultural, international world that necessitates compromises in order to succeed in life.

  • Rory

    Outdoor exercise is good for children! However did she persuade the assembly to accept such a novel, controversial idea without dissent?

    She certainly must be a silver-tongued smoothie and on this evidence alone certainly deserves all the awards we can throw at her.

  • riverlagan

    The conswater project will replace the Comber walkway as a place for walking, cycling etc – although the project will take around five years to complete.

  • who, me

    Did East Belfast not just get a massive lottery grant to create miles of cycle and walkways.

    Lets face it, the only reason the Comber greenway exists at all for walking and cycling is that its been protected for a transport route.

    Nice to see that Alliance would have everyone walking everywhere… great thought but rubbish in practice.

    BTW, what the f*ck does Michael Copeland and his stupid stunts have to do with this? Its no difference to Alliance calling for rapid transit schemes for Belfast, but then opposing them when the scheme actually starts to be realised.

  • DC

    The key word was preserve not ‘oppose’; forwards not back.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I thought Alliance policy was pro-public transport?

    They are. Let’s remember what this proposal is. It’s to install a pair of concrete channnels for buses to drive up and down. And this is not Conor Murphy’s idea. No, the idea has been bouncing around the department for the last 7-10 years. Far from being a sustainable and attractive public transport system, this is a scheme that has been dreamt up by civil servants who love cars, hate railways, and hate spending any money on anything other than more roads. The fact that Conor Murphy is acting as a puppet for the civil servants (just like he did on the issue of the Hightown Road bridge) reminds me of how far we really need to go when it comes to putting politicians in power who actually have some genuine and original ideas about how to solve our day to day problems here.

    What this route needs is a tram system, which is more expensive but will attract more passengers, take less space and be less visually intrusive than a concrete channel for buses to drive through. And I see no reason why a properly funded tram could not have a cycle/walk route alongside.

  • Rory

    “…a pair of concrete channnels for buses to drive up and down.”

    But this concept was executed so much more efficiently with the old Belfast Corporation Tramways. If sunny Croydon can bring back the trams why not Belfast?

  • Comrade Stalin

    Rory, they’re buses, not trams. The department doesn’t want to spend the money to do this right, so they’re putting in a cheap half-assed solution that won’t do anything other than take existing bus passengers from the existing routes.

  • Mike

    DC

    Well done on managing to turn this thread into an excuse for you to have a go at unionism.

  • Rory

    Thank you, Comrade Stalin, but I do realise that the proposal is for designated, clearly delineated bus routes and not trams. Which moves me to beg the question, that since such a system is clearly based on the tramway concept, why not go the whole hog? Tramlines are easily installed and thir ways do not impede or restrict other traffic. They are not noisy and smelly and are dead eco-friendly which is, like, real cool.

    I remember well using the Belfast trams, in fact I used to do the audit at the old Belfast Tramways Club, where a bucket of fresh tripe was one of the prizes in the Friday night’s darts competition, and which I had to include in the stock-taking on each Friday morning. It was a sad day when Belfast lost its trams and their resurrection is much to be hoped for.

  • DC

    Mike, the people deserve better, that’s all. An excuse to some is a simple argument of failings to others.

    Rory, I think the problem with the trams rests with it not being value for money in line with devolution spending limits that are probably fixed to those set via Westminster guidelines.

    Yes, it is a good idea, cleaner too but the money probably can’t be justified either in policy or operational demands? I dunno…