Green way ahead

Published by the Department for Infrastructure in late 2016, the Strategic Plan for Greenways will utilise disused railways, abandoned canal towpaths, riverside paths and flood embankments in order to develop a comprehensive greenway network across all 11 local councils and beyond.

Exercise, Explore Enjoy: a strategic plan for greenways was developed by the Department in collaboration with AECOM and Sustrans and constitutes a three-tiered approach. The proposed primary network, totalling some 440km, has a projected cost of £61.4 million and will act as a spine around which the rest of the network can be established. It consists of seven individual sections and is targeted to be 75 per cent complete by 2026. Incorporating the main population centres and some major tourist attractions, it includes the east-west (Larne to Belcoo) route, the north-south (Derry to Newry) route and the central route (leading to the causeway coast).

The secondary network of 596km is composed of 20 individual sections, will cost an estimated £88.1 million and has a delivery target of 25 per cent by 2026. It is not necessary for the primary network to be completed before work begins on the secondary and it is intended that local councils may develop these sections on a local basis. The overarching rationale of the strategic plan is “to provide a framework to assist councils and other bodies to develop their own schemes as part of a greenway network”.

The strategic plan also indicates an opportunity beyond the primary and secondary networks to ensure “a third level network of community paths that would provide doorstep opportunities to connect local communities to their local green space and neighbouring communities”. It is hoped that the number of journeys made on the Greenways Network and the National Cycle Network will be increased to 50 million over the next decade.

The core rationale of the greenway strategy is to provide an opportunity for citizens to commute to work and school by foot or bicycle, while simultaneously providing an important leisure resource for both local communities and tourists. It is anticipated that an accessible Greenway Network, with significant lengths of traffic-free routes, will encourage this.

The Department lists five overarching objectives for the strategy:

1. To improve health and wellbeing by creating opportunities for exercise in developing greenways.
2. To increase the areas and populations that have access to and the use of greenways.
3. To increase safety for people walking and cycling.
4. To improve opportunities for social inclusion and interaction.
5. To provide opportunities for the development of local economies.

Alongside the role of local government, Executive departments will also have a part to play in delivering various outcomes included in the draft Programme for Government Framework. Some of the cross-government objectives relevant to the strategy include:
• increasing the use of public transport and active travel;
• increasing environmental sustainability;
• improving our attractiveness as a destination;
• increasing shared space;
• improving air quality; and
• increasing quality of life for people with disabilities.

Furthermore, the strategic plan is intended to ensure opportunities for cross-border partnership and collaboration.

As part of a Small Grants Programme, the Department established a three-stage competition for local councils. During Stage One, councils were invited to submit Expressions of Interest. The subsequent grants will enable councils to develop concept design options through a Stage Two feasibility study. In Stage Three the best quality studies will be selected to receive an additional £25,000 of funding to develop a full business case and detailed design.

All 11 councils responded to stage one and £160,000 of funding (more than doubled from £64,000) was allocated to a total of 20 greenway projects. These encompass:

• Antrim and Newtownabbey (one scheme, £8,000)

– Doagh to Larne

• Ards and North Down (three schemes, £24,000)

– Comber to Newtownards

– Orlock point to Donaghadee

– Orlock Point to Holywood

• Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon (four schemes, £32,000)

– Craigavon to Aghagallon

– Portadown to (north of) Moy

– Banbridge to Scarva

– Portadown to Caledon

• Causeway Coast and Glens (one scheme, £8,000)

– Ballymoney to Ballycastle

• Derry and Strabane (one scheme, £8,000)

– North-West Greenway

• Fermanagh and Omagh (two schemes, £16,000)

– Enniskillen to Clones

– Omagh to Carrickmore

• Lisburn and Castlereagh (one scheme, £8,000)

– Carryduff Greenway

• Mid and East Antrim (one scheme, £8,000)

– Greenisland Greenway

• Mid Ulster (two schemes, £16,000)

– Clogher Valley Greenway

– Ulster Canal Greenway

• Newry, Mourne and Down (four schemes, £32,000)

– Carlingford Lough Greenway

– Downpatrick to Newcastle

– Downpatrick to Ardglass

– Comber to Downpatrick


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