Belfast park and ride plans prompt fresh hopes for new greenway to coast
A campaign to create a new greenway from the heart of east Belfast to the North Down coast is gaining momentum.
The idea of a link is back on the agenda amid plans for a park and ride facility in the area.
Greenway campaigner and east Belfast resident Jonathan Hobbs said the idea of linking the Connswater Greenway with the North Down coastal path has been around for a few years.
However, he believes that the proposals by the Department for Communities for a park and ride could give an opportunity to realise it.
Currently, the Connswater Greenway runs along the Loop, Knock and Connswater rivers to Victoria Park.
The proposed new greenway will run for around four miles from Victoria Park to the start of the North Down Coastal Path at Kinnegar.
An online petition for the new greenway has attracted more than 2,700 signatures in the last week, as well as support from East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson, and councillors including George Dorrian (DUP) and John Kyle (PUP).
Mr Hobbs said a new greenway could transform the area, adding: "From Victoria Park, this route is around four miles to the beach.
"For kids, that is a really cool idea, that teenagers could head off for the day on their bikes and never hitting traffic.
"It would be revolutionary for east Belfast."
He started his campaign now to coincide with a public consultation to install a park and ride facility for 500 cars at Tillysburn.
"After the main greenway project, which is mainly about disused railways in rural areas, I then started to look at urban greenway potential as well," he said.
"The Connswater Greenway was getting going at that stage, but I noticed a missing link, the Comber Greenway, the Connswater Greenway and the North Down Coastal Path.
"I thought it would be great to see that linked up. Along this route, you have got Belfast City Airport, where over a thousand people work every day, and it could open up possibilities for people there to cycle to work, and then out to Holywood Exchange.
"There is an opportunity here, and a missing link."
Mr Hobbs said there are already routeways in place which could be utilised.
"At the moment, the Connswater Greenway dies at the underpass (at Victoria Park)," he said.
"But close to the underpass, there is a walkway that goes behind some of the houses along the railway line and brings you on to Inverary Drive, then you hit Tommy Patton Memorial Park and then finally on to the railway line.
"How you get over the railway line is the biggest challenge, perhaps a bridge is a possibility.
"Then you are into the airport site, where there is an old disused access road which brings you into Holywood Exchange, and from there, you are on the straight road all the way down to the coast at Kinnegar."
The opening of the consultation into creating a park and ride at Tillysburn, close to the Sydenham bypass, has, Mr Hobbs said, created an opportunity to realise the new greenway dream.
"What spurred this on, particularly at the moment, is that the department is currently consulting on a 500 space park-and-ride site at Tillysburn, right beside this potential route," he added.
"There is a cycle shelter as part of it.
"But there is no sense that anyone looked at the plan and attempted to match the two together to allow users to bring a bike, or install a Belfast Bike station, and allow people to cycle into the city.
"Part of the next step for us is to respond to that consultation and tell the department that they need to take a look at how many people are supporting this idea for a new greenway, and whether it should be planned into this park and ride site."
The consultation for the Tillysburn park and ride closes on May 8.