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Time to sow our seeds on huge vacant Sirocco site

Published 11/09/2015

The vast Sirocco site on the Lagan, where my grandfather worked all his life, has laid vacant for so long that it is maybe worth thinking about some temporary use here.

The idea of makeshift uses is gaining popularity in European cities that have been subject to voids, vacancy and shrinkage.

It is surely in the interests of the public to get involved with ideas and not leave the urban landscape to the dealings of banks, property developers and international investment speculators.

I propose that the Sirocco site is an excellent candidate for a venture in urban gardening. Plot cultivation, allotments by the Lagan, raised beds if necessary, and some tree planting could all do their bit in softening the image of this continuing blot on the river landscape.

This could be a cross-community venture of people growing together that would attract favourable attention to our city at this fraught time.

Planning regulations need to be responsive to temporary initiatives and owners can perhaps see the sense that sharing space can also create value.

Belfast has organisations such as Groundwork and Friends of the Earth that can maybe sow further seeds here, but settling for perhaps another superstore on this site where Belfast led the world will hardly do the city proud now.

Professor William J V Neill

Emeritus Professor of Urban Planning

University of Aberdeen

Belfast Telegraph

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