23 May 2006

Half million wasted: SF


Sinn Féin MLA Fra McCann has accused British Direct Rule Social Development Minister David Hanson of creating a ‘city of two halves’.

The allegation comes after Mr Hanson announced a £26 million Belfast city centre regeneration package last week that bypassed significant parts of North and West Belfast city centre.
Fra McCann described the announcement as “extremely disappointing”.
“This package will not end the dereliction in the north and west sectors of the city centre and fails to reconnect North and West Belfast to the city centre.
“Some weeks ago I told the Minister that he was creating a city of two halves by concentrating all the future development on the eastern side of Royal Avenue and Riverside.
“No amount of camouflage can hide the dereliction that exists in the Castle Street, Upper North Street and Upper Donegall Street areas of Belfast city centre, areas that are recognised as the gateways to West and North Belfast.
“The decision to waste a half million pounds on a piece of public art in this area, to stimulate pride, is an insult.
“Every week thousands of people from North and West Belfast use North Street and Castle Street to shop in the city centre.
“They leave the most socially deprived areas of this city to do so, passing areas which have been neglected to the point of dereliction only to find that government has bought into the concept of moving the city centre eastwards.
“It is pointless spending £14 million on street furniture or fancy paving stones when the basic problems are being ignored.”
Cllr McCann added that a proper strategy delivering investment to all parts of Belfast city centre equally was urgently needed.
“We need to redesign the streetscape to draw in economic activity to those parts that are being ignored and left derelict.
“Recent decisions made by David Hanson and his advisers have put back the regeneration of these parts of Belfast ten or twenty years. It is a slap in the face to the residents of North and West Belfast.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Social Development said the DSD's Public Realm strategy was subject to extensive public consultation.
“This is the first stage in the Department's plans to achieve world class standards in the design of the streets at the heart of Belfast city centre.
“The areas being upgraded were selected due to their high footfall and proximity to major shopping developments,” he said.
“This includes plans to upgrade the full length of Castle Street which links West Belfast to the city centre.
“It is hoped that the significant investment made by the government will help to attract further investment by the private sector.
“The Department remains committed to regenerating all areas of Belfast city centre and will be publishing Phase 2 of the North West Quarter Masterplan this summer. This area is bounded by Millfield, Divis Street, North Street, Donegall Street/Clifton Street and the Westlink."

Journalist:: Laura McDaid

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