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Department's initiative to make Belfast streets more pedestrian-friendly welcomed by architects' society

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RSUA president Joan McCoy

RSUA president Joan McCoy

RSUA president Joan McCoy

A new scheme to create larger spaces for pedestrians in Belfast has been welcomed by the Royal Society of Ulster Architects (RSUA).

On Friday Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon announced the pedestrianisation of streets in the city's Cathedral Quarter on a trialled basis.

It is part of the Minister's latest green initiative.

The first phase of widening pavements is also to begin in the Linen Quarter to aid social distancing.

And public spaces on Londonderry's waterfront will be extended.

The project is one of a range of initiatives to encourage walking and cycling as the Government urges people not to use public transport in order to battle the spread of Covid-19.

Footways on Linenhall Street from May Street to Ormeau Avenue, along with Bedford Street from Clarence Street to Ormeau Avenue, are just some of the areas to be included in the new scheme.

Joan McCoy, president of RSUA, said it was a small but tangible step in acknowledging that "for society to function better over the coming weeks, months and perhaps years, our physical environment must change extensively".

"In the very short-term, as increasing numbers of people return to their workplace, it is not enough to encourage people to walk, run or cycle to work," Ms McCoy argued.

"The Government must create safe space to enable this whilst maintaining full access for people with impaired mobility.

"Covid-19 is affecting everyone and therefore the conversation on the changes to our physical environment is one that everyone in society should be involved in.

"To get the ball rolling, RSUA has launched an initiative called #OurChangedPlaceNI.

"We are calling on anyone who is interested to post on social media your ideas of the changes you would like to see to your area during this Covid-19 period using the hashtag #OurChangedPlaceNI."

She added: "Ideas can be presented as words, drawings or photos... feel free to tag your local councillors, MLAs, Department for Infrastructure or whoever you think should be listening."

Belfast Telegraph