Lower Falls forum update - May 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 last year. 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. Immaculata Boxing & Football Clubs have been active in the facility with both their junior and senior members enjoying the benefits. 

The official opening took place on 24 November 2021 with DfC Minister Deirdre Hargey and Belfast Lord Mayor Kate Nicholl in attendance. The BCC Park naming procedure concluded and the new park has been named Páirc an Lonnáin.

After £1m investment, abandoned Falls pathway reborn as Páirc an Lonnáin

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

The plan for this 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 then triggered.

Following delays in relation to the procurement and tendering process an award letter was issued to Kane Contracts, Dungannon. Several meetings including a pre-start meeting between McAdam Design, BSC and the contractor have taken place. The start date has been previously postponed because of ongoing diversionary works but a new start date is now set for 9 May 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.

MSC Planning Application was approved in October 2018

Roumania Rise (Radius Housing)

As part of the overall improvements to the MSC 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 Studiorogers 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 this financial year and their estimated start date is late summer/autumn 2022. 

Roumania Rise Housing Planning Permission was granted in January 2020. 

Ross Street Redevelopment (NIHE)

NIHE lead this BSC funded project, which is in close proximity to the MSC. 

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. Radius appointed a design team (Studiorogers) in 2021 who have consulted regularly with local representatives and produced a proposed layout. 

Demolition of the flats concluded in February but the demolition site has unfortunately been the scene of antisocial behaviour. NIHE has since made a decision to secure the site with palisade fencing and BSC has agreed that our MSC contractor is recruited to carry out the work. The contractor is due to start on site on Monday 9 May 2022.

Two Information Boards, outlining the three current BSC projects in the area – MSC EI Works, Roumania Rise Housing & Streetscape (Radius Housing) and the Ross Street Development (NIHE) were designed and produced. Unfortunately one of the signs has been destroyed by vandalism. The second sign is currently in storage and will be reinstated soon behind contractor fencing.  

Westlink Footbridge Cage Covering Replacement Request

BSC went back to DfI last year and asked – in light of recent improvements in the area including Páirc an Lonnáin and the restructuring of the footbridge access ramp - could replacement cage covering at the Westlink footbridge be considered again. Fra McCann had written to the Minister for Infrastructure about the matter as well.

DfI then agreed to forward a Feasibility Brief for a costing to their Consultants for consideration in the 2021/2022 financial year and would inform us of their decision. Although the 2021/2022 date passed, BSC has continued to regularly ask DfI for updates. DfI Highways Structures Unit (HSU) has been 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.  HSU were to undertake trial breakouts on the cantilevers and parapet upstands of the bridge as part of their study.

DfI informed us that another progress meeting was held recently with HSU and BSC has once again asked for an update or a decision.  The Forum will be kept informed of any response.

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