Belfast Telegraph

First Urban Village sites revealed

Two deprived areas at opposite sides of Belfast are to undergo regeneration as part of a Stormont strategy to improve community relations.

The Lower Newtownards Road in the east of the city and Colin in the west have been unveiled as the first two Urban Village projects envisaged in the Executive's reconciliation blueprint.

The Together: Building A United Community strategy, which was launched by First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness last year, included plans for four such projects in areas experiencing problems.

Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness announced the locations of the first two villages at Stormont.

Members of the respective communities have been invited to contribute to plans to improve facilities and enhance the local environment.

"These two urban villages offer the community the opportunity to utilise innovative and visionary proposals to make real and lasting change in areas that have seen years of decline, market failure and low social capital," Mr Robinson said.

"The urban villages' vision is to provide these areas with a new community heart through careful use of existing capital and by pioneering improvements to the look and feel of the area.

"Feedback from the community is consistent in its message to Government that regeneration, with residents at the heart of decision making, is a key element of what is needed to build a sustainable and safe community."

Mr McGuinness said: "The Colin and Lower Newtownards Road urban village regeneration projects offer the residents a unique opportunity to influence the look of their areas and build the social capital and local amenities.

"The development of the urban villages will bring the local community together to work on enhancing their built environment to deliver for all residents.

"We want to see these areas transformed so the community is reinvigorated with a sense of pride in where they live and work.

"Stronger good relations, through working together towards a common purpose, will build the sort of community we wish to see.

"One that is united in building a better future for all the people who live, work and socialise in the area."

The ministers said Colin had been chosen due to challenges it faced as a large urban area, with a high population of roughly 26,000, suffering from a lack of social infrastructure, while the Lower Newtownards Road was selected because it was a recognised area of high urban deprivation and decay.

Rose Mary Stalker, chair of Colin Neighbourhood Partnership, said: "We welcome plans by the Executive to invest in the Colin area as an Urban Village Regeneration Project.

"This project has a strong focus on the needs of the most deprived communities and we are excited by the genuine potential to improve the quality of life and well-being by providing access to health, education, recreation and transport and to do so in a way that provides jobs and creates opportunity for the Colin community to thrive."

The Rev Mervyn Gibson, chair of East Belfast Partnership, said: "This is great news for East Belfast and will make a positive impact in the lives of individuals and to the community as a whole.

"We look forward to developing and delivering this exciting concept with all interested parties."

Stormont's Department for Social Development will now start the work to have each area designated a development zone and create project boards to coordinate and oversee the planning, design and delivery of all aspects of the urban villages.

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