5th April 2017
Farrans has completed works on the Connswater Community Greenway – an inspirational living landmark which has revitalised the local community in East Belfast.
The multi-million pound project saw the creation of a vibrant green corridor alongside the Connswater, Knock and Loop rivers, from the Castlereagh Hills to Belfast Lough, providing a network of open spaces and a continuous, uninterrupted pathway.
Now complete, residents and visitors alike in East Belfast have the option to walk, run or cycle the 9km greenway between the Hills and Lough.
In recent months, a number of sectional openings have taken place along the course of the scheme, with the latest taking place at the weekend, when a new playpark was unveiled at Ladas Way. It is one of 2 new playparks and 2 MUGA pitches in a space which previously had no facilities or connectivity to local amenities.
The sectional openings and celebrations have certainly been welcomed by the local community – with more than 1000 people at the CS Lewis Square opening and 500 people at the James Ellis Bridge last month.
Hallmarked by the locals
The local enthusiasm is perhaps a reflection of how this project has come to embody the history of its East Belfast setting.
During the course of works, Farrans installed 7 new bridges and set up a bridge-naming campaign, with public suggestions and a public vote.
The result was that several bridges were named after significant members of the local community – the James Ellis Bridge (after East Belfast local and Z Cars actor, James ‘Jimmy’ Ellis) and the Grace Bannister Bridge (after the first Female Lord Mayor of Belfast), to name a few.
Farrans also refurbished 5 historical bridges, including those in the Cregagh Glen (a wooded glen which is all that remains of a forest that once covered 1000 acre) and the Conn O’Neill bridge (which local legend dates back to the early 17th century).
Protecting a flood-prone area
The works also saw the site team, led by Project Manager, Ciaran Donnelly, construct 5km of flood wall as part of the wider £11 million East Belfast Flood Alleviation Scheme.
“Increased flood defences constructed along the new greenway will provide enhanced protection for some 1,700 properties”, Ciaran explained.
“It will bring assurance to residents and local businesses who have previously been vulnerable to flooding and experienced considerable damages caused by flash floods in the past.”
Improving the ecology of the area was also a key focus for the team, given that the Connswater River has been neglected for some years.
“We brought it back to life with the use of river mitigation,” Ciaran said.
"We removed a man-made river bank and replaced it with natural silt traps, reed beds and aquatic planting. We also planted over 1000 trees, 1500 bulbs and 7000 shrubs and hedges to create a much better environment for local ecology and more attractive space for local people to enjoy.”
A new tourist draw
As well as benefitting the locals, Farrans' work on the scheme has allowed the region to enjoy a marked boost in visiting tourists over recent months.
Farrans’ Customer Care Manager, Vicki Johnston, points to the allure of the new CS Lewis Square, which was opened at the end of last year.
The square, which Vicki describes as the “pinnacle of the Greenway” features 7 sculptures of characters from Lewis’ famous book, The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, commissioned by Irish artist Maurice Harron.
An excellent new public space with the capacity to hold 2000 people, the CS Lewis Square has been a major attraction in recent months.
“Since opening, the new spaces have been well received by local residents and tourists alike who have welcomed the investment and development in their area”, Vicki said.
“The new amenities and public spaces really celebrate the history of the place and are a great addition to the East Belfast area.”