| 14.8°C Belfast

Public to get say on Ormeau pedestrianisation plan

Bid to close road to cars at weekend irks traders

Close

Proposal to pedestrianise Ormeau Road at weekends has proved controversial

Proposal to pedestrianise Ormeau Road at weekends has proved controversial

Proposal to pedestrianise Ormeau Road at weekends has proved controversial

Belfast City Council has agreed to a consultation after plans to pedestrianise the Ormeau Road angered traders.

The Open Ormeau initiative had proposed a pilot this month to allow pubs and restaurants to expand on to the streets in a European-style coffee culture at weekends.

While gaining support in the hospitality sector, other traders on the Ormeau Road say restricting traffic on the busy route will drive customers away.

The concept is backed by the SDLP, Alliance and Greens, but is opposed by the DUP.

A new group has been formed to resist the change, the Ormeau Road Business Development Association.

Chris O'Reilly from the body is retail director at Mace and Centra on the Ormeau Road. "The Ormeau Road is busy on a Saturday for a reason. We've built up a complementary retail offer that people want to travel to," he said.

"The new amendment put forward will also snarl up traffic and people won't want to come here again.

"We feel there is a concerted political will to close arterial routes in and around Belfast to drive a potential green agenda and back (Infrastructure Minister) Nichola Mallon's aspiration for people to cycle and walk more. That's absolutely admirable, but that still needs a careful and considered approach where everyone has their say."

SDLP councillor Gary McKeown welcomed the decision to hold a "robust" consultation that took all views into account ahead of any pilot scheme.

"In reality, we can only see how these things would work in practice by trying them out, and a pilot would provide a safe, managed space to do this," he said.

He added that officials would work with volunteers to aid the design of the trial, allowing proper time and subject to council approval.

In a joint statement, DUP South Belfast MLA Christopher Stalford and Botanic councillor Tracy Carrol said many were "alarmed" by issues like parking and the likely impact on businesses.

"Whilst we accept the people behind this idea may have had good intentions, we believe that it should not proceed as it will have a negative effect on the area," they said.

"We are pleased that the community is to be fully and properly consulted on this matter and believe that the more scrutiny this idea receives, the less viable it becomes."

Belfast Telegraph