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Major West Belfast Land-use Forum held at Stormont

11 December, 2007


West Belfast MP Gerry Adams today hosted a major Land-Use Forum at Stormont to discuss the strategic development of the huge piece of west Belfast land bordered by the Glen Road, Hannahstown Hill, the Upper Springfield Road and the Monagh by-pass.

The scale of the land-zone encompassing the sites of interest is on a par with the Titanic Quarter.

Today's forum was attended by a wide range of local stakeholders; residents groups, landowners, developers and community organisations. The objective of the meeting is to begin a dialogue which will produce a strategic approach to use of land in the zone identified.

The meeting was chaired by west Belfast MLA Paul Maskey and heard a wide range of contributions.

The Forum agreed to reconvene again in February for further discussion.

In the context of a significant demand in west Belfast for new housing, particularly social housing, growing each year, as well as the ongoing pressure to provide employment, education, health, a viable transport infrastructure and improved retail services, the issue of land use is now a major challenge facing the people of west Belfast.

Sinn Fein west Belfast MP Gerry Adams thank all of those who attended and told them it is imperative that any development of these adjacent sites "must be integrated into a coherent, strategic and co-ordinated approach if we are to make best use of the opportunity available to improve the living and environmental conditions for thousands of west Belfast citizens".

Mr. Adams said:

"The need for a coherent and strategic approach to regeneration is all the more important given the scale of disadvantage and the demands for housing, jobs and a decent environment for citizens in west Belfast.

"Consequently, there are several great challenges facing the people of west Belfast in the time ahead. These include :

  • the provision of sufficient, good quality social housing;
  • the location, as well as the allocation of employment;
  • the infrastructure to ensure the west is connected to the rest of the city and to bring the development and prosperity of Belfast into the west;
  • the creation of the space, the amenities and facilities to ensure that the people have the same quality of life as citizens elsewhere.

"Sinn Féin believes that development must be about building communities, which means more than building dwellings.

"If all of these lands are taken together, the potential scale of development is equal to that of the Titanic Quarter in east Belfast. An enormous investment will be required and the outcome will have a dramatic impact on the shape and the future of the development of west Belfast, and this city.

"Sinn Féin is concerned that if this large parcel of land is allowed to be developed without an overall strategic vision, the adverse social environmental, housing, transport, educational and environmental impact could be considerable.

"Sinn Féin wants any proposals for development on these adjacent sites integrated into a unified plan for this area.

"If that is done well, then we have a wonderful chance to build stronger communities with a better quality of life. If that fails, the space will become contested for years to come." ENDS

Note to editor:

Nearly one third of all the citizens of Belfast live in west Belfast. That is not to mention the number who live in Lisburn city council area.

About 34% of the population in west Belfast is 18 years of age and under. Although about 1,000 people a year over recent years are reported to have migrated from west Belfast to areas such as Dunmurray, Derriaghy, Crumlin and Glenavy, the population is not in decline.

At a thumb-nail sketch, the socio-economic conditions of the citizens of this part of Belfast continue to be circumscribed by continuing significant levels of disadvantage. Nearly 4 in 5 people in west Belfast live in the areas measured as most deprived in the 6 counties. Falls, Whiterock and Shankill remain amongst the most deprived on updated indices.

10% of all those on the housing waiting list in the 6 counties are in or from west Belfast. The local housing waiting list rose last year from 2,575 to 2,797. Those in housing stress also rose to almost 2,000 people (from 1,759 to 1,971).

In the same time as housing need has increased, the cost of buying a house in west Belfast has continued to soar. In the last four years, the average cost of a house in west Belfast has risen by £100k. In the last year alone, the increase the average cost of a house has increased by 61%.

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