31/07/2009

Vacant City Development Space In Focus

Space for 20,000 new Belfast homes is currently laying vacant and in public ownership, according to a city think tank.

More than two square kilometres of land in Belfast could be used to regenerate and reconnect communities within the inner and central city, the newly-launched Forum for an Alternative Belfast has claimed.

The forum - established to create a strong vision for a new capital city - says the land is still lying idle after more than a decade of a construction boom.

"Years of bad or mediocre redevelopment have continued to isolate large swathes of the city, creating ugly dead facades and leaving it largely empty at night," said Belfast Forum co-director Mark Hackett.
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"It's hard to believe that an area the size of 500 football pitches is not being more productively used given that it is all located within a two kilometre walk of the city centre."

He said: "Our preliminary study indicates in excess of 20,000 extra people would comfortably be housed in the fractured inner city.

"With that comes the challenge of making new schools, parks and connecting with existing communities in an equitable manner – and doing so with development of enduring built quality."

Next month, the forum is bringing more than 70 of Belfast's leading architects, engineers, urban planners, arts experts, community leaders together in a four-day 'summer school' to develop workable ideas to transform the city.

"The five-day 'think tank' will examine what would happen if we stopped leaving the development of our city to chance and instead started to plan a common vision for how we see ourselves in 2020. We want everyone to take part in the wider discussions," Mr Hackett added.

(PR/KMcA)

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