Belfast Council is seeking to replace a mysterious “unadopted” bridge in Lagan Valley and return the area to public ownership.
At the recent full meeting of Belfast City Council, the DUP successfully proposed that City Hall applies for Stormont funding relating to the “Belfast Agenda” and “A Bolder Vision” documents, which promise a transformation of connectivity, greenways, active travel and placemaking in the city.
DUP Councillor Gareth Spratt told the chamber: “Council officers will be familiar with Brown’s Bridge in Lagan Valley Regional Park. For members who are not familiar with it - this was an asset which did not come through the asset register during the transfer of councils from Castlereagh to Belfast.
“It is a bridge which appears to have no one owning it, and nobody responsible for it. I think quite rightly council officers have resisted bringing this unadoptable asset within Belfast City Council’s remit.
“But what I would like to propose is that with the Blue Green Infrastructure funding, I would like council officers to engage with the Department for Infrastructure, and scope out funding opportunities for the replacement of Brown’s Bridge.” He said he wanted “to see an adoptable asset there that can come into Belfast City Council’s remit.”
Sinn Féin did not oppose the proposal, but the party’s group leader, Councillor Ciaran Beattie, warned that unadopted land was a “huge problem” across the city. He said: “Every councillor has an unadopted alleyway, I have several, where residents basically can’t get their bins out the back doors because they are so overgrown, and no one is responsible for clearing it.
“The footways are unsafe, particularly for older people, who on some occasions just nail up their back door, which is a health and safety risk. So I think as a council we should be getting external legal opinions on how we action this, because I personally have been round the houses with departments, who all seem to wash their hands of it. But it is someone’s responsibility.
“I’ve seen the deeds of a home recently, nearly 100 years old, where it says the footpaths would be transferred to the local authority. That never happened, so we need to find out why that never happened.
“It will cost a lot of money with the amount of unadopted alleys out there. But there are a lot of ratepayers paying a lot of money to receive services which they are not getting. We do need an external legal opinion, and if need be we will have to take legal action against those responsible.”
Amongst some of the Stormont Blue and Green Infrastructure funding applications so far made by from City Hall are a council “tactical regeneration scheme” for the Great Victoria Street/Shaftesbury Square area.
Pending Stormont approval, this scheme will provide “streetscape improvement works, including resurfacing with resin bond gravel and providing planters and improvements to problematic areas along the street to improve the pedestrian experience.”
It also promises to “deliver a revitalisation programme providing property boundary treatments to help to address urban decay and dilapidation through innovative artwork, minor capital works, and physical enhancements along this connectivity corridor.”