Prioritising walking, cycling and public transport, connecting communities to the city centre, and creating lively, safe and green streets are the principles underpinning a number of key moves outlined as part of a 12-week public consultation on the future of the city centre.
The ambitious ‘Bolder Vision’ is being taken forward jointly by Belfast City Council, Department for Infrastructure and Department for Communities, and now members of the public are being given the opportunity to have their say on a number of scenarios for the future use of the city centre based on emerging infrastructure projects, and balancing the requirements of all city stakeholders and users.
Welcoming the public consultation, Belfast Lord Mayor Councillor Kate Nicholl said it was an important step in bringing the vision to life and seeing results “at ground level”.
“Bolder Vision presents us with the opportunity to fundamentally rethink and reimagine how our streets and public spaces are used to make them more vibrant, accessible and inclusive for all users. The ongoing pandemic has forced us to reconsider how we move forward on our post-Covid recovery journey, and over the last 18 months we have seen some very successful pilot projects trialled across the city,” said Councillor Nicholl.
“It is crucial that we don’t just go back to how things were, but that we take this opportunity to reshape our city centre, not just in physical terms at ground level, but how we use our streets and open spaces to create a more attractive, people-focussed heart. We are very keen to have input from members of the public and city stakeholders, so I would encourage people to have their say; you will be helping to shape the future of our city.”
Councillor Nicholl added: “It’s also important for us to prioritise walking and cycling, helping to stitch together communities across the city with better access and pedestrian routes, focussing on ways to build a healthier, greener city for everyone.
“Even before this pandemic, cities across the UK and Europe have been exploring options to diversify their city centres to ensure long term resilience and well-being for all, as we respond to the urgent need to create a more sustainable, climate-resilient city to address issues around flooding, congestion and air quality.”
Four key areas are outlined in the consultation:
- establishing a north-south pedestrian route to provide safe and accessible movement through the city centre, including car-free streets;
- enhancing existing and creating new riverside destinations, connecting communities to the river and encouraging travel along the waterfront;
- reimagining the ‘inner ring’ to reduce dominance of cars, redesigning key junctions and creating safe active travel routes;
- incentivising city centre living by providing better quality, choice and affordability of accommodation, and creating pedestrian friendly routes and city parks to promote play and relaxation.
Communities Minister, Deirdre Hargey, said: “My Department is committed to playing its part in ensuring a vibrant and thriving Belfast city centre. Bolder Vision is about reimagining the city and how it is used and enjoyed. It considers important issues such as connecting communities and addressing the barriers which create severance between the communities on the periphery of the city centre and the city centre core. We also have an aspiration to significantly increase the residential population in the city centre. To realise this aspiration we need to make the city centre a better, more attractive and affordable place to live, with more quality open, green space. This Bolder Vision for Belfast will also inform designs of my Department’s public realm projects. We must get this right for future generations and this is your opportunity to have your say. I would encourage everyone to get involved and help us shape a Bolder Vision for Belfast.”
Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon said: “I encourage everyone to respond to this consultation and have their say on the next steps which we can take together to transform our city. It offers us all a unique opportunity to translate our bold vision into an even bolder action plan and the steps we must take to realise it. By working together in partnership we have the chance to make lasting, sustainable change with innovative green initiatives and a forward-looking sustainable infrastructure that can transform our communities today and for the generations behind us. A city that better suits the needs for all stakeholders and users.
“I want everyone to seize the opportunity to make changes so that we can transform our spaces and places. This will improve public health now and for the future by creating more opportunities for active travel, with more safe routes for walking, wheeling and cycling. Covid19 has proven that we can do things differently, the climate emergency is showing that we must do things differently. This is our chance for change and I urge everyone to play their part in it by giving us their views so we can work together to ensure a more attractive, safe, accessible and vibrant Belfast for all.”
The consultation is now open and will run until 23 December 2021. Members of the public can have their say via the Council’s website yoursay.belfastcity.gov.uk
A series of workshops and stakeholder engagement is also taking place in the coming weeks.
For more information on A Bolder Vision, visit www.belfastcity.gov.uk/boldervision