Belfast Telegraph

Friday 11 July 2014

Growing... the calls for more city trees

Beech tree in north Belfast
Beech tree in north Belfast

The Lower Falls, Lower Shankill, Carlisle Circus, New Lodge and Tigers Bay all have something in common.

Walk from one to the next and it might become obvious – trees are in very short supply.

There are plenty lining arterial routes and encircling Belfast City Hall, but barely a handful of leaves are to be seen in the newer estates in Belfast's inner city, according to Forum For An Alternative Belfast (Fab) director Declan Hill.

Earlier this year he was showing a Berlin architect round west and north Belfast when his guest asked: "Where are all the trees?"

And that's how Fab came up with the theme for this year's summer school in Belfast City Hall.

Previous schools have concentrated on issues such as 'missing Belfast' – the vast tracts of empty land that lie within a 20 minute walk of the city centre – and the layout that cuts communities off from each other by major roads.

But every year the same question kept coming up, he said: "Why are there no parks or play areas in the centre of Belfast?"

Mr Hill added: "Belfast has a wonderful natural setting in a valley between mountains and the Castlereagh Hills. The Lagan river provides a natural spine.

"There are a number of greenway schemes in each sector of the city such as Connswater, Shankill and Colin Glen.

"One challenge is how these greenways could be linked and connected through the city as routes."

Trees aren't just for decoration – they provide a key role in combating pollution and are often described as a city's lungs.

Declan added: "Last night people taking part in the week-long project went for a walk through the Lower Falls, the Lower Shankill, across Carlisle Circus, into New Lodge and Tigers Bay and Sailortown, and it's frightening the lack of trees within the areas where people live."

Soon councils will be taking over planning powers and Belfast City Council is drawing up a draft masterplan for the development.

Fab is calling on people to drop into the City Hall this week and let its members know what they think about the layout in the hope that these views can be fed back into the masterplan and create a city that is refreshing, vibrant and full of greenery for the benefit of its residents and visitors alike.

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