Belfast Sailortown bidding for Irish government funding for new bridge linking to Titanic Quarter

Elected representatives at the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee agreed the prioritised project for the Belfast Dockside Regeneration project would be the Sailortown to Titanic Quarter active travel bridge.

By Michael Kenwood

Belfast's Sailortown has come a step closer to seeing the creation of a new bridge linking it to the Titanic Quarter, as a result of an Irish government funding initiative.

Belfast councillors at a recent City Hall committee meeting noted an update on progress of the Cork Belfast Docklands Regeneration Initiative under the Shared Island Fund, an initiative by the government in the Republic set up to "promote practical North/South cooperation."

Elected representatives at the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee agreed the prioritised project for the Belfast Dockside Regeneration project would be the Sailortown to Titanic Quarter active travel bridge. The plan for a walking and cycling bridge is at the bidding stage for funding.

At another City Hall meeting earlier in the summer it was revealed Belfast and Cork are to join forces on a rooftop solar heating project.

In total Euro £90,000 has been earmarked to the Cork-Belfast partnership to develop a Cork Belfast Solar PV Study and to develop investment opportunities aligned to docklands regeneration.

A Belfast Council report states: "The Docklands project focus arose from the opportunity to connect two important maritime economies and drive decarbonisation, growth and innovation.

"Ports are key hubs for trade and investment and support small and medium enterprises and employ thousands of workers. Significant capital investment is planned for both the Belfast Waterside and Cork City Docklands areas and these areas represent two of the largest regeneration areas in Europe."

On the bid for a new bridge, it states: "Providing a new cross-harbour cycle and walking swing bridge, this connection would complete the Harbour Loop, a continuous connectivity loop from the Lagan Gateway to the uppermost point of the northern dockside, providing a continuous active travel corridor along both sides of the Lagan.

"The project will improve connections between the Sailortown community and Queen's Island, improving economic opportunities, as well as restitching the original shipbuilding facilities at Clarendon Dock with maritime facilities on the eastern quays.

"The proposed bridge will also provide enhanced connections between North Belfast communities and education, tourism, employment and innovation opportunities within Queens Island, as well as providing a critical sustainable and active link between Yorkgate Train Station and Queens Island."

The plan for the bridge was the preferred bidding option over other suggestions, including a new tourism centre in the Thompson Dry Dock adjacent to the new Titanic Distillery, a new gateway between the city centre, the city quays and Queen's Island, and "meanwhile uses" along the Maritime Mile to "draw footfall and animation along the waterfront."

The Sailortown scheme will pair up with a similar plan for a cycle and walking swing bridge at Water Street in Cork City.

The report states: "As lead applicant, Cork City Council has commissioned an integrated consultancy team to develop the project across the two locations with a final submission to be made to the Shared Island Fund by September 2023."

It adds: "The pairing of the two bridges will provide connections at a local level for both docklands in terms of reconnecting communities to the areas of opportunities, providing enhanced leisure facilities along the Lagan and the Lee, and provide a significant contribution in terms of delivering sustainable and active travel infrastructure to enable the respective dockland areas to meet their climate obligations.

"This project would also serve as an opportunity for the two dockland areas to further explore longer term collaboration aligned to our shared maritime past and the future opportunities for collaboration under key growth sectors including tourism and innovation."

The Dublin government department website describes the The Shared Island Civic Society Fund as "an initiative to promote practical North/South cooperation and engagement across a range of sectors and themes, consistent with the objectives and commitments of the Good Friday Agreement."

It aims to "encourage and support civic society and community organisations to develop new cross-border links, to further strengthen existing partnerships, or to create or broaden cross-border connectivity on issues of concern for the island of Ireland.

This initiative will make Euro 500,000 available in 2023 to organisations working on North South projects across a range of sectors.

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