We know that many unused and problem urban spaces reduce the quality of life for residents in North Belfast. These spaces mostly result from flawed urban planning, the Westlink cutting its way through the city, or housing layouts of past regeneration that were ill-conceived. They are often locations for anti-social behaviour or littering and neglect. Often, they have underground services or are spaces that were difficult to build on.
The Communities in Transition Urban Regeneration Project is working with ten groups in Ardoyne and New Lodge to examine these spaces, learn the methods of dealing with them, and progress some of them to solutions that can be ready for funding. The contradiction is that both neighbourhoods do not have good access to well-maintained city parks and good quality green spaces. This impacts on residents and their children’s health and well-being. Having good walking access to an open green space is vital in a city. Both neighbourhoods are also helmed in by roads and buffer planning that restricts access to the rest of the city.
The project works with community partners to identify these problematic spaces and co-design solutions. It will be important to consider the ongoing maintenance arrangements. Many of the spaces cannot be built on and have underlying planning and land ownership problems. One idea emerging is to have a series of productive plant and gardening uses and a social enterprise structure to manage the spaces. The series of spaces will shortly be illustrated online and if you wish to engage further there will be local discussions and a draft plan produced.