Sharing Best Practice – Connswater Community Greenway
The Connswater Community Greenway is a £40 million investment in East Belfast. The project was developed by EastSide Partnership and delivered by Belfast City Council. Key facts include:
- A 9km linear park for walking and cycling
- 16km of foot and cycle paths
- 26 new or improved bridges and crossings
- Serves 23 schools and colleges
- Up to 5km of rivers cleaned
- Hubs for education, interpretation points and tourism and heritage trails
- Wildlife corridor from Belfast Lough to the Castlereagh Hills
- C.S. Lewis Square- a space for events and activities
The greenway team is rightfully proud of what they have achieved and the Outdoor Recreation Group greatly appreciated the sharing of knowledge gained during the development of this iconic outdoor recreation project. I’ve summed my key learnings from the session:
Partnership is key
- Partnership working is essential in terms of project development, one organisation on its own would not have been able to deliver the project
- Local politicians were excellent advocates for the project
- Flood alleviation was not part of the original plan, but the opportunity presented itself during the planning stage. Additional funding was secured and marked benefits are being enjoyed by local communities. 1700 homes are now able to have their homes insured due to the alleviation of flood risk.
Build On Success
- When acquiring land for a development project such as the greenway – target the ‘easy’ sections first, then the more difficult sections can be approached with a catalogue of permission already banked.
- The greenway was originally built for leisure and recreation, but commuting is a key result of the greenway development e.g. cyclists into the city and local school children getting to school (increasing their journey time but for a safer and more enjoyable route).
- It is essential to consider the sustainability and legacy of a project from the outset – will additional funding be required? Who will manage and maintain? How to keep local communities engaged with the greenway? How to animate the greenway?
Engage the Community – Before & During Development
- It is important to employ a wide range of engagement techniques to ensure the success of the project and its long-term sustainability – e.g. lighting up bridges the same colour as Belfast City Hall thereby promoting interest and curiosity, asking communities to name bridges and play parks, developing community garden and delivering hard hat bus tours during development.
Positive behavior reduces anti-social behavior
- The project has resulted in Belfast City Council changing an internal policy where previously all parks closed at dusk. Now parks such as Orangefield are permanently open with minimal antisocial behavior, due to the natural surveillance provided by the presence of members of the public.
Monitor & Evaluate
- Monitoring and evaluation of the project is key – Connswater Community Greenway is working in partnership with Queens University on the PARC study, investigating the effect of a new urban greenway on the physical activity of local people – providing valuable statistics that allow for reinvestment etc.