Fears that an historic Belfast golf course would be forced to close to allow a massive sewerage project to be carried out have been allayed.
Officials at Ormeau Golf Club, which opened in the 1890s, were concerned that proposed ‘open cut’ work on their grounds for the Belfast Sewer Project would lead to the closure of greens and loss of revenue and members.
Underground drilling was expected to be carried out alongside the club as part of the £100m upgrade of the city’s sewers, however NI Water encountered problems. The company then proposed the open cut method to continue the project, sparking concern that the course would have to close.
But now NI Water and the club have agreed on a tunnel route that keeps the course open.
The tunnel will be driven under the golf course as originally planned, but at a shallower depth.
Club honorary secretary Richard Barnes said: “The council of the golf club and the members are delighted to have reached agreement with NI Water in relation to work on the course connected with the Belfast Sewers Project.
“The prospect of an excavated trench was extremely unpalatable to all the members.
“Although there are some risks with the new proposal it is hoped that the tunnel can be created with minimal disruption to play and no damage to our long established fairways and greens.”
Mr Barnes added the club was grateful for support from politicians during the negotiations.
Bill Gowdy of NI Water said: "The Belfast Sewers Project is crucial to reduce the risk of flooding in Belfast and we are working very hard to minimise any inconvenience caused to the public during construction.
“I am very pleased that we have been able to reach agreement with the golf club and to ensure that it remains open for play.”
Mr Gowdy said consultants and contractors had made design and equipment changes that will allow tunnelling under the golf course on a modified alignment.
“Whilst there remains a risk of the equipment encountering obstructions, we have solutions to continue working and to allow play to continue,” he said.