Northern Ireland’s Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard today launched an ambitious plan for a 1,000km of greenways across the region.
Funding has yet to be secured for construction of the walking and cycling routes, but the Northern Ireland Executive is already funding £160,000 to councils to develop feasibility studies for 20 greenway projects, and campaigners pointed out that 77 of 108 Stormont politicians pledged their support to the development of a greenway notwork and that would be “a tough promise to go back on”.
Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard said: “This plan is the pathway to help deliver those opportunities for people across the north, focusing on the development of a 400km primary and 600km secondary greenways network that walkers, runners and cyclists can share. The greenway paths will connect towns and cities to the villages and countryside from east to west and north to south, and will also be integrated with other modes of transport, making it easier for people to leave the car behind.”
The primary routes have a price tag of around £60m with a target of 75% of this to be delivered within 10 years, while the secondary routes are expected to cost £90m but only 25% of these routes are expected within in 10 years.
Minister Hazzard added: “Many of the proposed schemes are located on disused railways, riverside paths, abandoned canal towpaths or flood embankments. This will breathe new life in to this redundant infrastructure and create public spaces where people can meet, relax, play or enjoy nature, improving the quality of life for local communities and enhancing the experience for visitors.”
Jonathan Hobbs from NI Greenways said: “It’s an exciting day capping four and a half years of voluntary campaigning to raise awareness of the Northern Ireland Greenways vision. We now have central and local government working together on a plan to create a 1,000km network extending across the country and across the border.”
He added: “If delivered, this will be a welcome mat to the world, placing a traffic-free path network at the centre of our tourism offering, and regenerating communities all over the country – rural and urban, west and east of the Bann, north and south of the border.”
“We should also be able to count on a smooth ride to delivery over the current Northern Ireland Assembly term, given that 77 of 108 returned MLAs pledged their support to development of a greenway network as party of the Election Cycle campaign – a tough promise to go back on, even in these heady days of opposition politics at Stormont,” said Hobbs.
IMAGES: Map from the Department for Infrastructure; photo from Northern Ireland Executive on Flickr, some rights reserved.