“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.”