Laganside loose ends: an FOI, a disappearing Assembly question & a zipwire across the Lagan

In the end the Department of Social Development took a shade longer than the four weeks permitted under FOI to answer my simple questions about their investments in the Laganside Events and Laganside Community Activity Grants.

Figures for the 2011/12 grants for the two funds were supplied in the meantime through another DSD source. But that left the remaining query asking for the total amount spend on the Laganside grants over the years the schemes have been in operation.

snippet from DSD FOI spreadsheet

The simple table of figures came through on Tuesday (along with the information previously provided) … not quite the “promptly, but not later than 20 working days after receipt” as the ICO expects.

bar chart of DSD Laganside fund figures

Charted – and note the different scales on the y-axes – it confirms that the Laganside Community Activity fund has underperformed since it came under the control of DSD in 2007. While Nelson McCausland announced a couple of weeks ago that the £300 cap for individual community grants would be lifted to £1000, even if every organisation was able to justify claiming the full amount, DSD is likely to hand back to Sammy Wilson a large proportion of the money set aside.

Either the fund is too big for the fourteen council wards covered (and merely a good publicity vehicle) or the fund is ill-publicised and DSD need to work with partners to make the fund more accessible to community groups.

I noted in an earlier post that two questions had been raised in the Assembly about the earlier sudden withdrawal of the Laganside Events fund.

While the SDLP’s Conall McDevitt’s question got a relatively uninformative answer, the DUP’s David McIlveen withdrew his question asking the minister “to detail his Department’s reasons for closing the Laganside Events Fund …”

(David McIlveen didn’t respond to my queries around his precise reason for closing down his question.)

Lastly, it turns out that Nelson McCausland can include Minister for Zipwires on his CV. DSD are currently consulting on the Queen’s Quay Belfast Draft Masterplan which includes a proposal to string a zipwire across the Lagan.

travelling through Queens QuayThe Queen’s Quay area includes the other end of the pedestrian bridge that starts at the Big Fish as well as a car park and some river frontage. The draft masterplan notes:

As a development opportunity, the Queen’s Quay site sits at one of the most strategic pedestrian gateways across the Lagan from the city centre to East Belfast. It also sits between four signature development sites: Titanic Quarter; Sirocco Quay [a site no longer viable for its owner to develop]; The Odyssey; and the ‘Shatter Zone’ [an area of fragmented land parcels due to the M3 road network and flyovers] and as the landing point for the eastern side of the Lagan Weir, which serves as a tourist attraction itself.

The masterplan fails to mention to cold and furious breeze that accompanies the side of the Lagan.

The draft plan suggests an 18 storey/208 room hotel and a 14 storey/278 unit residential tower should be built on the site.

But the most eye-catching element of the plan is the idea of a crow’s nest tower to be built on the Odyssey side “enabling spectacular views of Belfast and a feature attraction of a zip wire across the Lagan to opposite the Custom House”.

The consultation closes on the 30 March.

Weeeeeeeeeeeeee………..

Alan Meban. Normally to be found blogging over at Alan in Belfast where you’ll find an irregular set of postings, weaving an intricate pattern around a diverse set of subjects. Comment on cinema, books, technology and the occasional rant about life. On Slugger, the posts will mainly be about political events and processes. Tweets as @alaninbelfast.