By Staff Reporter

SOUTH Belfast’s inner city communities could suffer as a result of further pedestrianisation of the city centre, it has been claimed.

Local think tank, Forum for Alternative Belfast, which has compiled a new report, ‘Streets Not Roads’, have spoke out over what it says is a vision for a “pedestrian friendly zone” adopted by the Department for Social Development, which would see less cars in and around Belfast City Centre.

The group, which holds an annual summer school at its South Belfast HQ, where the impact of urban planning in the city, particularly in relation to local communities is discussed, has warned areas including Sandy Row, the Markets and the Lower Ormeau would bear the brunt should more cars be forced out of the area around Donegall Square.

Forum director Declan Hill said following the publication of the group’s report last week: “The DSD’s vision for a city centre pedestrian friendly zone where people can wander about unhindered by vehicles, sit at outdoor cafés or enjoy some performance art may sound idyllic, but other areas would have to pay the price.

“The plan necessitates dumping all the current traffic around the City Hall to the economically deprived areas of Sandy Row, Donegall Pass, the Lower Ormeau and the markets.”

His colleague mark Hackett added: “Who is such pedestrianisation aimed at, really? Is it just for those who work in the city centre every day then leave it in the evening? It’s a nice idea, but Belfast isn’t like cities in continental Europe, where such ‘plazas’ and squares are common. Not many people live in the city centre, so we’re not quite ready for this change.”

Lower Ormeau Community spokesman Gerard Rice said vehicles and parking was an ongoing issue.

“I’d welcome any discussion or debate that will look at lessening the problem or preventing an increase in the future,” said the Lower Ormeau spokesman.

However, a spokesman for the Department of Social Development said any changes to the city centre would take neighbouring residential areas into consideration.

“The Department is at the start of a two year process which involves producing a number of design options before arriving at a preferred option for the public realm improvement of the Donegall Square area,” he said.

 

“The plan necessitates dumping all the current traffic around the City Hall to the economically deprived areas of Sandy Row, Donegall Pass, the Lower Ormeau and the Markets.”

 

“We are keen through the public consultation process, to take into account the views of all sections of the community before a preferred option or plan is selected. Implementation of the preferred option will be subject to economic appraisal and funding availability and satisfying all the necessary statutory requirements including obtaining planning permission.”

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