SECURED £1.2 MILLION INVESTMENT FOR PLAYGROUND FACILITIES IN CASTLEREAGH
As your Member of Parliament for South Belfast, I am always working hard to make our constituency a better place. This means listening to you and discussing the issues that are important to you, and your family. My team and I have been very active in the Castlereagh area over the past number of years, and a common issue that people were raising on the door-steps was the lack of suitable play facilities for children in the area. There is a very high volume of families in this area, with a large number of children. We noted these concerns, and when they were repeated to us again and again it became very clear that this was a very real problem. We followed up these initial discussions with surveys which we circulated throughout the area – the high volume of responses we received proved that this was an issue that a huge number of you felt needed to be addressed.
As such, my team and I, including your local Councillor’s John Gallen and Brian Hanvey, resolved to tackle the issue. We initiated a series of meetings with key personnel from Lisburn and Castlereagh Council, including the Chief Executive Theresa Donaldson, and the Director of Leisure and Community Services, Jim Rose. At these meetings, we outlined the current situation, and made the point that there was inadequate facilities even to meet the needs of existing residents, and underlined the view that the situation would get even more critical as more families continue to move into the area. We explained the work we had done to canvas local opinion, and made it very clear that residents felt that a solution was needed. We asked that the issue be made a priority for the Council in it’s short, medium, and longer term planning.
You will know that our team has constantly kept you, the residents, up-to-date with all subsequent developments. We distributed thousands of update leaflets throughout the area, telling people what we were doing, who we were meeting, and informing you of any progress. And following on from our meetings, the first real sign of tangible progress came in August 2016, when we learned that Lisburn Castlereagh Council agreed a tender proposal to appoint a Play Consultant to carry out a detailed audit of the play facilities in the area at that time. In spring of this year, we informed residents that this audit had been completed.
The audit confirmed that there were in excess of 25,000 people in the 0 – 14 age group within the Council area. It also confirmed that a number of gaps existed in terms of available facilities, and that these gaps would require further localised consideration by the Council. Our team worked hard to ensure that this issue remained a high level priority for the Council, and stayed in regular contact with the key officials involved, and in October this year we were able to provide further details about some real progress.
- We told you that the existing play facilities at Colby Park are to be significantly overhauled and improved through a £75 – £100k investment. This is to include a new play area relocated to flat ground, with new outdoor gym equipment located where the existing play area is, new benches, and investment in lighting to discourage vandalism. Consideration is also being given to the possible inclusion of all-in-one football and basketball nets. These works are included in the 2017-18 Play Area Refurbishment Capital Programme.
- Plans for additional new housing in the land between Brooke Hall, Bracken Hill, and Laurelgrove have now been amended to include provision for two play areas. These areas will incorporate slides, swings, climbing frames, a roundabout, and a Tangle Trail located within retained greenspace. Further details can be found by accessing the application via the NI Planning Portal by quoting ref LA05/2015/0338/F. There will be a further consultation with residents about these plans in the coming months, and we would advise you to give these matters your attention.
- Proposals for significant development at Hydebank Playing Fields have now been approved at Council level, and will now proceed to the next stage of planning permission, before phased delivery. This major scheme will include a play park, a 3G pitch with spectator stand, outdoor gym equipment, and a perimeter path linking the site, and will involve an investment of circa £1.1m. Car parking spaces will increase from 38 spaces to present to 82, including 4 disabled spaces.
These projects will deliver both new and improved facilities for you, and shows that with a bit of hard work, we can work together to improve our communities. Your SDLP team sought out your views, listened to you concerns, and promised to represent you. We secured the co-operation of the relevant key personnel, and made sure that the issue remained a key priority on the policy agenda. We asked for updates, and provided residents with information about options, possible solutions, and plans.
I have served as the Member of Parliament since 2005, and I stand over my track record of delivering tangible outcomes for the people of South Belfast. Whilst others pontificate and pay lip-service to the idea of representation, my team have consistently sought to engage with residents, listen to them, and take action on the issues that matter most to you. We will continue to ask for your opinions, fight your corner, and deliver results.