Thursday, 2 April 2009

Fixing up Donegall Place and Castle Place

I was delighted to see that plans have been unveiled to overhaul the main thoroughfare through Belfast, as I called for in November. The plans won't quite see Donegall Place blocked-off to traffic, but the road will be reduced to only permitting buses to travel one-way.

The work is due to start in May 2009, with completion by September 2010.

Unveiling the designs, Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie said:

“Change is coming to Belfast. Positive change, change for the better for Donegall Place and Castle Place.

“My Department is investing £7million to make this change happen. This money will be spent on new paving and new lighting to make these streets more accessible for pedestrians and to secure much needed jobs in the construction sector.”

“When the first stage of this work is completed next year we will have wider pavements and partial pedestrianisation with buses running only in one direction. This will make Donegall Place and Castle Place a safer more attractive environment for shoppers, visitors and those who work in the city centre.

“The new streetscape should also attract further investment in retail once the market picks up and enhance those businesses currently trading in the area. The design of the new streetscape will respect the historic fabric of these streets.”

“The scheme will finally be completed when the city centre transport plan is fully implemented. At that point Donegall Place will be fully pedestrianised. We are moving forward in the right direction making sure that we get the balance right between meeting the needs of pedestrians and ensuring the smooth running of public transport.

“The construction works will be carried out in full consultation with local businesses in the streets to be improved. I would ask city centre stakeholders and the public to bear with us as the end result will be worthwhile.

“Previous completed paving works, which have been dug up by utility companies, has hampered the construction programme of late. I want to ensure a better effort to coordinate their activities within the existing roads legislation and construction programme going forward.

"I have written to my ministerial colleague Conor Murphy, who has responsibility for roads, and asked him to consider bringing in stiffer penalties. This will help guarantee compliance in future developments by all utility companies.”

“Phase one of the 'Belfast: Streets Ahead' programme will end when the streetscape is in place in 2010. It will have transformed 13 streets in Belfast`s main shopping area, representing a total investment of £28million.

"The legacy of this investment will be a vibrant shopping area we can all be proud of. It will be safer, cleaner, more attractive, more accessible and among the best of our competitor regional European cities."
A website has been set up for the project here.

Welcome to the 21st century!


Gerry Lynch said...

In principle, it sounds great, but I wonder where they're planning to put the buses? What will we do with all that extra pedestrian space? A few pubs and restaurants in presently vacant premises wouldn't go amiss, with plenty of outside terrace space.

Gary McKeown said...

I'm sure they'll think of something to do with the buses. Donegall Place is a deathtrap at the minute with buses careering up it at speed with people have to walk on the road as the paths are too narrow. I think it would be great to create outdoor caf├ęs, bars or stalls, a bit like you find in squares in mainland Europe.

Anonymous said...

Good to see this development - this area of Belfast has needed upgrading for a long time - and yes it would be great to get the city centre revitalised in the evening as most major cities - and get the buses out of the area - there is no need for them to go up and down the main street - I would not have it open to traffic - just like Grafton Street - on another note I must say that Margaret Ritchie is doing a great job getting town centres etc upgraded - this has been something that has been long overdue - mind you the terrorists had their own ideas about redevelopment of our town centres

speak the truth said...

Couldn't agree more!

Anonymous said...

Hope it helps the area to beat the recession