Maskey welcomes awarding of tender for 'Strategic study of the Holyland area'
South Belfast Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey has welcomed the news that the tender for the 'Strategic Study of the Holyland and wider University Area' has been awarded by Belfast City Council.
Alex Maskey said that the awarding of this tender would see the services of professional consultants engaged to develop proposals for a long-term comprehensive strategic plan for the Holyland and wider university area.
Alex Maskey MLA said,
"Last December I proposed a motion at Belfast City Council which called upon the Council to support the commissioning of a study, led by Council officials in conjunction with other agencies, that would specifically identify the underlying causes of the problems in the Holyland area and hopefully lead to the development of proposals for a long term strategic plan for the area. That motion was passed with cross-party support.
"The passing of this motion cleared the way for Council officials to begin the process which has led to the recent decision to award the tender to carry out this study.
"When drawing up the Council motion, and in the subsequent meetings with Council officials, it was my intention that the awarding of this tender would see the services of professional consultants engaged to develop proposals for a long-term comprehensive strategic plan for the Holyland and wider university area. This is precisely what has happened, and I am extremely pleased that we have now reached this stage.
"As we approach the beginning of a new university academic term the reality of the Holyland area is that it is an area with around 1,500 households has a population of around 9,000 people.
"This is due to a number of factors including the expansion in student numbers and insufficient availability of University controlled and/or regulated accommodation, the growth in properties being owned by private landlords, and an increasing transient population.
"The end result of this has been laid bare for all to see and has included an increase in anti-social behaviour creating friction with long-term residents in the area; a break-down in community cohesion; the degradation of the local environment, including increased rubbish and litter in the area and over-proliferation of 'to let' signs; overcrowding in a number of properties; an over-proliferation of HMO's; poor community and environmental infrastructure and increasing crime rates.
"All of this is unacceptable and has left many long-term residents in the area dreading the beginning of the academic year, year after year.
"It is therefore essential that we compliment the ongoing and previous work carried out and devise a joined up, cross-departmental, strategy on how to tackle these problems and to develop proposals for a long term comprehensive strategic plan for the Holyland and wider university area. The awarding of the tender sees this process begin in earnest.
"I have been clear from the outset that any long-term solution to these problems will not work unless there is ongoing engagement with key stakeholders, including local residents. Such engagement is envisaged in the recently tendered 'Strategic Study', and I intend to ensure that this commitment is honoured.
"For our part, Sinn Féin remains committed to ensuring that the recommendations which will come out of this study are taken forward and put at the heart of Belfast City Council and the Assembly Executive on behalf of the people who live and work in the Holyland and who deserved the same quality of the life as citizens throughout the city."
Note to Editors:
· This tender was advertised on 28th May 2009 and was recently awarded.
· The full Council motion put before Belfast City Council on 1st December 2009, read: "The Council is concerned about the problems in the Holyland area of the City which have been evident for a number of years. It recognises the work that its officers have undertaken in leading a multi-agency group to take forward interventions to deal with some of the issues which residents have to face.
"The Council also welcomes the recent initiative led by the Minister for Employment and Learning, bringing together a Stakeholder Forum aimed at involving all groups in defining the problems and suggesting possible solutions
"To support this work and ensure a long term strategic approach, the Council supports the commissioning of a discrete study, led by Council officials in conjunction with other agencies, which specifically identifies the underlying causes of these problems and leads to the development of proposals for a long term strategic plan for the area."
· In March 2010 Sinn Féin's Alex Maskey launched the party's "A new vision for the Holyland and University areas" which contained a number of proposals to tackle the problems in the Holyland area. This document can be downloaded in PDF format at: http://www.sebelfastsinnfein.com/news/16024
· Belfast City Council will be carrying out this study in partnership with Assembly departments/agencies and academic establishments:
- Belfast City Council
- Belfast Metropolitan College
- Department of Environment Planning Service
- Department of Social Development
- Queen's University of Belfast
- St Mary's College
- Stranmillis College
- Strategic Investment Board
- University of Ulster
· It is anticipated that the overall study will be completed, and key recommendations made by January 2011.