Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

St Patrick's Day clashes - Let's avoid Holyland Mark II during Belfast festival

Flashback: Students clash with police in the Holylands area

An impressive new university campus is to be built in Belfast's northside and from experience we know this could mean one of two things.

It could turn out to be the golden opportunity for business, the local community and the university that Chancellor James Nesbitt argues it could be. Or it could be the Holyland Mark II. It will certainly take careful planning and a co-ordinated strategy – something which was blatantly lacking as one of Belfast's loveliest and most scenic neighbourhoods was gradually turned in recent years, into a student slum land.

The rape of the Holyland was down to a number of different factors. We can only hope the planners, government and above all, the university authorities have learned lessons from that one and will aim to avoid anything similar on the northside.

The great shame is that "university city" is usually a label that commends a place – not condemns it. Elsewhere students are able to live in happy co-existence with local residents respecting their rights and their homes.

Here we witnessed a descent into maggotry which left its shameful and enduring mark on the south of the city. Perhaps now, if at least some students are to relocate, the Assembly could look at how to restore the Holyland. Those bleak HMOs could, with a bit of work be turned into decent dwellings for young families. The area could be reclaimed from grim 'To Let' decay to provide housing for those who need it most.

The Executive has apparently a few spare million rattling around unused by various departments. Funding such a scheme would provide jobs, homes and overdue transformation for a sadly ravaged part of this city.

Surely worth consideration?

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