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