Lower Falls forum update - July 2021

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 has been handed over to Belfast City Council (BCC) from 28 June 2021. The final BCC inspection was completed on Tuesday 23 June 2021 and hand-over approval was given with the caveat that all legal documentation was completed and snagging items are concluded in the near future. The legal documentation referred to is the land licences from DfI and NIHE and those were agreed and finalised. Any outstanding contractor snagging issues are also concluded. 

Lisa Lynn of FRA has provided us with an update on the current position.  The facility is operational and clubs are already 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 the increase in Covid cases in the area there is a track and trace system in place and booked hours are limited.   

The official naming procedure is ongoing with BCC. Council has agreed to keep us informed regarding any name decision as well as any plans for an official opening.

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 the design presented to the steering group at a meeting on 28 April 2021. It was approved and finalised.  This allowed for the official completion of the technical design and the contract tendering process was triggered.

McAdam Design submitted their template “Invitation to Tenderers” documents to DoF Construction & Procurement Delivery (CPD) for review in July in preparation for issue via eTenders NI. The process is now completed and the ITT docs have been submitted for issue via eTenders.  We will hopefully have an appointed contractor by the end of August.

We are still on schedule therefore for a mid-September on-site start date, but obviously dependent on the process continuing without hindrances. 

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 to 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.  

We had understood that the timing of the Roumania Rise housing aspect of the project would run alongside the MSC EI project. However, Radius recently declared their intention to align the Roumania Rise housing works with the Ross Street development in the 2022/2023 financial year (estimated start date March 2022).

Radius has clarified that as a social enterprise that receives funding to support the delivery of social housing, it is required to demonstrate Value for Money across all projects. Radius has been advised that procuring a single contractor to deliver the Ross Street and Roumania Rise development proposals in a phased manner will achieve this objective, due to the proximity of the two schemes and the possibility of achieving economies of scale. Radius also believes that phasing the MSC works, demolition works and housing construction works in the area will be more beneficial to residents’ wellbeing as they won’t be experiencing construction on all sides at one time. 

Plans are 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. The process of sourcing alternative transfer accommodation is almost complete and demolition is now provisionally scheduled for September 2021. However, the NIHE Area Maintenance Manager has flagged up issues relating to service disconnection and negotiations with the NIE, Phoenix and NIW which may cause delay.

Radius HA has appointed a design team (Studio Rogers) who have produced a proposed layout and design to local representatives for comment. Agreement is in place that the rear pathway between the current Ross Street flats and the proposed new MSC car park should be permanently closed, with footfall 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 recently confirmed that their aim is to get a planning application lodged with BCC in the next couple of months followed by wider consultation on the proposals hopefully in September 2021.

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