Belfast's new green gateway - a park on either side of the M1
Ambitious new plans to transform the Boucher Road and Andersonstown areas of Belfast could see a park created on either side of the M1 motorway, linked by a walking and cycling bridge.
The new South West Gateway Masterplan, launched by Social Development Minister Mervyn Storey, sets out a blueprint for regenerating one of the city's most important economic areas, stretching from the Falls and Andersonstown Roads to the railway and from Stockman's Lane in the south to the Bog Meadows and Windsor Park.
The plan, drawn up by The Paul Hogarth Company, proposes a range of measures aimed at improving air quality, community interfaces, reducing traffic congestion and creating pedestrian and cycle corridors.
It suggests making use of the Boucher Road Playing Fields and a vacant wastewater treatment works on the other side of the motorway to establish a new Blackstaff Park named after the river that will flow through it.
These open spaces will be linked by a new landmark bridge across the M1 that connects the Boucher Road and Falls Road and carried pedestrian and cycle traffic, although a larger bridge open to vehicles is also an option.
"Further connectivity within and beyond the South West Gateway would be achieved through the establishment of a local greenway network," a spokesman for the company said.
"Specifically this would involve a pedestrian and cycle route between Musgrave Park and the Milltown Cemetery as part of a wider greenways system linking the River Lagan and Belfast Hills.
"Additional connections via the Blackstaff River could also be explored."
The plan proposes investing in a number of quality pedestrian and cycle corridors, with lighting tree planting and signage.
"The South West Gateway has potential to play a more important ecological role in the city, having once been largely an area of wetland like the Bog Meadows Nature Reserve," the spokesman said.
"Notably, yet unknown to many, the Blackstaff River passes through the centre of the gateway to the rear of business properties before entering a long culvert on its way to the Lagan. It is proposed to create a network of ecological corridors that extend wildlife habitat and encourage greater biodiversity across the area."
Announcing a series of consultation events on the draft masterplan, Mr Storey said: "The south west area of Belfast is a vital node of economic and social activity within the city.
"Over the last number of years the area, like many others, has suffered the effects of the economic downturn."
The draft masterplan is available for viewing and feedback on the 'Place Speak' website: http://www.placespeak.com/southwestgateway. The consultants will also host five public information sessions in local venues as follows: Monday, December 1, 2014, 4-7pm, Olympia Leisure Centre; Tuesday, December 2, 2014, 4-7pm, Andersonstown Leisure Centre; and Monday, January 26, 2015, 4-7pm, Belfast City Hall.