Lighting up the Comber Greenway would cost nearly £1m, it can be revealed.
The greenway is a seven-mile, traffic-free corridor from Dee Street in east Belfast to Comber.
It opened in 2008 and is a popular cycling and walking path. However, there have been increasing calls for the Department for Infrastructure to provide lighting.
A public consultation was undertaken and completed last year. It laid out three options for improving the greenway.
One was to do nothing, which was supported by 19% of respondents, while another was to light a section running from the Beersbridge Road to Billy Neill Halt — supported by 22% of the 1,700 people who responded.
The final option was to light the entire greenway, which was supported by 58%.
Work on a pilot scheme — lighting the Beersbridge Road to Billy Neill Halt — is set to begin this summer. It will be reviewed after two years to decide whether to light the entire path.
If this goes ahead, figures obtained by the Belfast Telegraph show it will cost £961,000, including the cost of widening the greenway.
This figure is made up of £87,050 in ‘in-house support’, £3,620 in maintenance, and £870,480 in capital costs.
Of the survey respondents who were against lighting the greenway, many live along the corridor and are worried about light pollution and the impact on animals in the area.
One resident said: “I live backing on to the greenway and enjoy the feeling of countryside and lack of light pollution in my garden. It was the main reason I bought my house.
“I like seeing the wild animals in my garden at night encouraged by the lack of walkers and cyclists.”
Another said: “This would be highly disrespectful and unthoughtful towards residents living beside the greenway. This will encourage later and more frequent use, creating higher levels of noise disturbance and pollution throughout the night.
“Residents already listen to cyclists shouting to each other, large groups, youth gatherings, scramblers and mopeds throughout the day.
“This will lead to a direct causation of increasing these levels while residents are entitled to quiet at night, especially those who are working. Light pollution will increase and impact residents and standards of living. Furthermore, this could reduce the value of housing of those connected to it. The greenway has also enabled burglary in areas directly connected with it and it will now have higher levels of visibility.”
Of those who support lighting the entire greenway, one said: “It would greatly enhance safety in the winter, making it easier to spot dangers on the ground.
“The section after Knock PSNI station can feel particularly lonely and intimidating for women on their own. Lighting only the section from Beersbridge Road would not be particularly helpful as it will leave the darkest sections unlit.
“I also cannot understand why the lights must be turned off between midnight and 5am. Issues with light pollution can be overcome with careful selection of the lighting solution, and turning off the lights at night while street lights remain on reinforces the message that cycling and walking are second class.
“I am sure use of the greenway is light at these times, but so is use of the road network and we do not turn off those lights for five hours each night.”