25/08/2011

Connswater Contract Dispute Played Down

A major contract for east Belfast that promises a picturesque, riverside linear park as well as enhanced flood protection is on track for completion - despite fears being expressed earlier this week over a dispute between the contractors and one of the sponsors.

A 'flood of problems' threatening to swamp the imaginative plan to build the £21m linear park in east Belfast along the course of the Knock, Connswater and Loop rivers.

Backed by two Stormont Departments and Belfast City Council, the Connswater scheme is also aimed at alleviating flooding as well as developing a public space for cyclists and walkers.

The contract to build riverside walkways, flood defences and cycle paths was awarded to two firms - SIAC NI Limited and Galliford Try Infrastructure and is being funded by Belfast City Council, the Big Lottery Fund, the Department of Agriculture and the Department for Social Development.

On Tuesday, work surrounding the creation of new flood defences was reported to have run into difficulties with Belfast City Council and the two firms said to be trying to resolve the dispute.

Now, a Belfast City Council spokesman played down the apparent divergence and told www.4ni.co.uk: "There are contractual issues that need to be resolved but that is normal in any major contract.

"The Council is committed to the delivery of the project both within timescale and within budget."

That's in spite of BBC NI alleging that a serious dispute has broken out between the contractors and the Council.

The issue caused local Alliance representatives Cllr Máire Hendron and Chris Lyttle MLA to underline that it is 'crucial' that there is agreement as regards the Connswater Community Greenway project to ensure that the scheme can be completed as soon as possible.

Cllr Máire Hendron said: "It's vital that there is agreement to allow quick progress on the project," she said.

Chris Lyttle MLA said: "This is a very positive project for east Belfast and we must make the most of the natural resources we have in the area.

"This scheme could also help boost the economy in the area and is a key component of the east Belfast of the future," he said.

Another East Belfast MLA, Michael Copeland has expressed his concern at the news that the construction plans for the Connswater Community Greenway has ran into difficulty.

The Ulster Unionist said: "I am concerned to hear that there are problems threatening the progress of the new Connswater Community Greenway.

"This is a much needed project in east Belfast with so many cyclists, pedestrians and residents looking forward to its completion.

"I understand that the project has run into difficulties which may endanger the delivery of this vision.

"I am particularly concerned at the implications for the proposed flood alleviation systems that were to be built as part of the project," he said.

"Given the massive problems east Belfast has faced over the last number of years due to flooding in residential areas it is imperative that this dispute is resolved as it will save hundreds of people from having their homes destroyed should we face such heavy rainfall again.

"I understand that these problems were identified quite some time ago and I know there are many people working behind the scenes to make sure the project goes ahead.

"I can only wish them every success," he concluded.

(BMcC/GK)

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