Shane Donaghey: Belfast no longer a load of bollards
City centre roadworks maze is finally removed
Where have all the bollards gone? “Go down there on Friday and I promise you, you will not see one red and white barrier,” vowed Belfast City Centre Manager Andrew Irvine earlier this week.
From the spring of 2009 a standing red and white army laid siege to Donegall Place and part of Royal Avenue, Ulster’s most prestigious shopping street, as part of the Streets Ahead revamp project.
But they've left traders feeling less than terrific and punters apoplectic as they were forced to weave in and out of a load of bollards like a rugby club stag do in Prague.
The main drag at times resembled a ghost estate in the Republic. Shoppers who wanted to go into, say, Eason's would find themselves in a maze that led to the neighbouring shop.
On Thursday, city centre managers had vowed that the barriers would be gone by 5pm so punters, traders — and office parties — could get ready for the Christmas rush, and before the Christmas market began at City Hall.
Royal Avenue is free of the blighters, and the accordionist at CastleCourt was completely unmolested by drastic plastic.
But late yesterday morning there was a cluster at Castle Junction, as if they hadn't received the order to withdraw.
Workmen were adding finishing touches, such as sealing manhole covers.
For city pensioner Lillian Clyde, the barriers have been a big problem: “You'd walk one path and that wouldn't take you anywhere, and you'd have to come back down again.”
Belmont woman Linda Allen said: “My mother-in-law is up in arms about it. I sort of could cope with it, but then she would be in town much more than I would.
“She's been giving off for months about it. It's much better like this.”
Myna Copeland, waiting for the bus home, said it had been very inconvenient.
“When it's finished it'll be good,” she said. “But if you want to get to the shops, you'll get there!”
Perhaps surprisingly, for wheelchair user Mary Kennedy from Newtownabbey the bollards were no barrier.
“As long as I can find a parking space I'm fine!” she said.
But for small businesses the works have been no laughing matter.
John Welsh and Alannah McPeake's business, Campbell's cafe in Arthur Street, was affected by an early part of the Streets Ahead project, which took place in 2008.
“They've been back three times to dig this street up,” John said.
“It's a better area now, but the shopping's not better. We were told this would be ready two years ago.”
But Kieran Sloan of Sawer's foods in Fountain Shopping Centre off Donegall Place said the work had been a complete disaster.
“Four years ago this was a busy thoroughfare. It no longer is.”
By late afternoon the workers were pushing the bollards away. Why didn't we think of that?