Lower Falls forum update - January 2022

The updates below are the most up to date positions advised to BSC.

Westlink Back Path Environmental Improvement Scheme

The Back Path sports zone project has completed and responsibility was handed over to Belfast City Council from 28th June 2021.  The park comprises sport and leisure facilities including a gym, running track and Multi-use Games Area.  There is also play equipment, a seating area and a community garden.  An improved access ramp to the nearby Westlink Footbridge has also been encompassed as part of the scheme.

The facility is operational and clubs are making use of it.  There are daily public opening hours from 12 noon until 3pm and then clubs have to book their slots for the MUGA and running track.  Immaculata Boxing & Football Clubs have been active in the facility with both their junior and senior members enjoying the benefits.  Due to Covid, booked hours are limited and there is a track and trace system in place.  

The official opening took place on 24 November 2021 with DfC Minister Deirdre Hargey and Belfast Lord Mayor Kate Nicholl in attendance.  The official park naming procedure is ongoing and BCC has agreed to keep us informed regarding any name decision.

Maureen Sheehan Centre (MSC) & surrounding area Environmental Improvement Scheme

MSC Planning Application was approved in October 2018

The plan for the EI project was reviewed and approved by the steering group last year.  This allowed for the official completion of the technical design and the contract tendering process was triggered.

Following necessary delays in relation to the procurement and tendering process an award letter was issued to Kane Contracts, Dungannon in November 2021.  Several meetings including a pre-start meeting between McAdam Design, BSC and the contractor have taken place and a start date is set for 1 February 2022 with a 20 week construction phase.

The EI works include provision of car parking as well as improvements to roads, paths, walls and fencing and the provision of lighting and CCTV.

The BSC contractor requires a licence to access the NIHE land area at MSC and this was requested 13/12/21.  NIHE has indicated that there should be no issues regarding the licence.

Roumania Rise (Radius Housing)

Roumania Rise Housing Planning Permission was granted in January 2020. 

As part of the overall improvements to the area Radius has agreed to build 2 units of housing and manage the associated street works at Roumania Rise.  BSC has provided funding for extraordinary costs over and above normal anticipated expenses for the construction.  Radius has employed McAdam Design on a contract for the design of the two housing units and this will progress as a separate procurement exercise to the MSC environmental improvements.  

Radius has declared their intention to align the Roumania Rise housing works with the Ross Street development in the 2022/2023 financial year and their estimated start date is late summer/autumn 2022. 

Plans are also in place to provide information boards outlining the three BSC projects in the area – MSC EI Works, Ross Street Development (NIHE) and Roumania Rise Housing & Streetscape (Radius Housing).  Local Community representatives will have sight of the draft information boards before they are finalised.  

Ross Street Redevelopment (NIHE)

NIHE lead this BSC funded project, which is in close proximity to the MSC.  We continue to liaise with NIHE and the local community regarding demolition and site security in line with our project at MSC.  Demolition is currently ongoing. 

Radius HA appointed a design team (Studio Rogers) in 2021 who have produced a proposed layout and consulted regularly with local representatives.  Agreement is in place that the rear pathway between the existing Ross Street flats and the proposed new MSC car park should be permanently closed – this area will become generous sized rear gardens in the proposed new build layout; existing footfall will be redirected via Servia Street.  This should remove the ongoing issue of anti-social behaviour in this space and provide secure backs for the new properties.

Radius Housing Association submitted a planning application on 22 November 2021 for 22 new dwellings and with planning approval they hope that a contractor can be on site in September 2022.

Westlink Footbridge Cage Covering Replacement Request

BSC went back to DfI last year and advised of recent improvements in the area including restructuring of the footbridge access ramp and a replacement cage covering was requested.  Fra McCann wrote to the Minister for Infrastructure about the matter as well.

DfI agreed to forward a Feasibility Brief for a costing to their Consultants for consideration in the 2021/2022 financial year and informed us that a decision would hopefully be made in August 2021.  DfI then informed BSC that their Highways Structures Unit was carrying out an options study based on the original BSC feasibility report.  The study required a detailed analysis of the structure to be undertaken to ensure that the most appropriate option is taken forward and that work was due for completion in September 2021 when a decision should be made. 

DfI has now declared that due to staff vacancies and other emergency bridge assessments and monitoring requests, their Highways Structures Unit has been unable to progress a report examining the capacity of the existing bridge.  They have promised to progress this piece of work as soon as staff become available to do so.

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