Derry council backs £27m transport hub in face of campaign anger
Councillors last night gave the green light to a public transport hub in Londonderry despite campaigners fiercely opposing the plans.
Translink's controversial £27m proposal will see the redevelopment of Northern Ireland's only remaining Victorian-era railway station in the Waterside - despite almost 50 letters of opposition and a petition signed by thousands of people.
John Glass, Translink's head of projects, said that the planned hub "sets a new standard in sustainable transport" and that he hoped work could start as soon as possible.
"This decision marks the beginning of a significant transformation in the way people travel in the northwest region," he said.
"As an important gateway it will encourage modal shift from car to public transport and other sustainable modes by providing integrated and convenient services to enhance connectivity and encourage more active travel for a healthier region.
"In addition, it offers social and economic benefits with the potential to be a catalyst for further investment and tourism, making the local area more attractive to business and investors, creating jobs and enhancing the economy while protecting the built heritage of the iconic Grade B listed Waterside train station."
However, campaigners said they were hugely disappointed in the decision by Derry City and Strabane Council, claiming the redevelopment did not make best use of the old station.
Mark Lusby, from the Into The West transport lobby group that petitioned the council to reject Translink's plans, said councillors voted for the "less than perfect" over the "potentially extraordinary" for the city's riverfront and railway heritage. And John Anderson from Ulster Architectural Heritage vowed campaigners were not giving up.
"This is not over," he said. "We have deferred it to the Department for Infrastructure.
"We are supportive and have been supportive since 2011 of a transport hub.
"As we have said repeatedly, it's not what they are doing, it's the way that they are doing it. I think the Derry councillors accepted second best."
The SDLP's Tina Gardner voted against the plans and said that "Derry deserved better".
"I feel very disappointed," she said. "I feel like yet again we have accepted second best for Derry.
"I think that where we could have asked the applicant to go away, consider the plans carefully and come back with a better plan, we just said we'd take whatever we're given. I don't think that's good enough for the city."
However, Sinn Fein's Christopher Jackson said that he was pleased "progress" was approved.
"I am absolutely delighted," he said. "This is a major step forward for infrastructure, not only in the city but in the entire northwest region. I would like to applaud everyone who voted for progress today in the chamber."