Life Changing Impacts
The construction of the new Ulster University Campus at York Street represents a massive investment that will have a life-changing impact on Belfast and further afield. Here in the New Lodge residents living in the immediate shadow of the new campus and its associated constructions such as Frederick Street carpark and student accommodation towers have had their lives seriously disrupted by the immediate effects of the building works.

Tackling Problems
Since the beginning of the construction phase some of the staff from the Ashton Centre have been appointed to work closely with a local residents group in order to help alleviate some of these effects. This has included ongoing engagement with UU officials, building contractors, student accommodation providers as well as a number of statutory agencies including Belfast City Council Environmental Health team. Although these engagements have often been tense and difficult they have also been useful in addressing some of the issues involved. This has included the tackling of problems relating to noise, light and dust pollution, night working, rodent infestation, traffic and parking and so on.

Communication and Participation
Key to this process is communication. Mark Hackett who is an Urban Designer working for Ashton Community Trust said “It is obviously too late to reverse or alter the physical constructions already completed but it is never too late to include and engage with local people and to listen to what they are saying. The fundamental principle underpinning any good regeneration practice should be open, democratic local community participation. To make this happen, appropriate partnership structures must be developed, supported, resourced and sustained. A lot of our efforts in recent years have been focussed on this. As we move into the future we must build on the engagement and communication structures that we have established with the UU and others. The purpose is not solely to address problems that might arise but to also create opportunities that would improve social, economic and environmental life for the local community”.

The Ashton Community Trust is pleased to announce that the National Lottery Community Fund has agreed to provide funding in order to enable us to continue with some of the crucial work outlined in this article. Further details of this development will be announced when appropriate to do so.