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Market tunnel plans set to be unveiled

TUNNEL VISION: Fionntán Hargey of the Market Development Association TUNNEL VISION: Fionntán Hargey of the Market Development Association
By Michael Jackson

THE Market Development Association is set to provide an update on the highly anticipated development of the Lanyon Tunnels.

Next Wednesday (November 6), the association will unveil new concept drawings of the tunnels, which will include childcare facilities, restaurant and social space, as well as a gym and fitness suite.

The event will also see launch of a groundbreaking new report that outlines a framework for community development.

The paper, entitled ‘We Must Dissent’, is the result of a community survey that assessed the human rights of local residents against the major issues facing the area.

Amongst the issues identified were concerns around road safety, housing, health, education, and unemployment.

Another key issue was the pressures of commercial land speculation in the area, which has presented an obstacle to the community development of the Lanyon Tunnels.

Despite planning permission and £2.6million being granted for the development, plans have been stalled by owners of an adjacent piece of land – which was subject to plans to build a £55million office block.

In 2018, residents won a legal victory when the High Court ruled that planning approval for office block was unlawful. However, the potential for future plans to develop the land could impede access to the tunnels if given the go-ahead.

Speaking ahead of next Wednesday’s event, Fionntán Hargey from the Market Development Association said the tunnels development would provide a “massive boost to people’s self esteem”.

“It would physically reconnect them to city centre and it would also reconnect them into the economic, social and cultural life of Belfast.

“The tunnels got planning permission in 2015, and there is £2.6 million in funding sitting there ready to go, and there are three groups of residents trained up and they’ve got business places developed. We also have updated drawings that have recently been commissioned.

“The issue is that there is a private developer who is refusing to grant access to allow the project to go ahead.”

He continued: “Next Wednesday will refresh people on the latest concept drawings and give people wider overview of the Redeveloping the Local Economy programme. Our aspiration is that by January we will be launching a report, and we will have several groups of residents with business ideas that are on course for development.”

Next Wednesday’s event will take place at 6pm in the Market Community Centre where guest speaker, Dr Sean Byers, will discuss the economics of community empowerment.

There will also be a full project update on the Lanyon Tunnels.

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