Rerouted in east Belfast: Knock River forced to change its ways for Orangefield Park development
For decades it has quietly flowed along the edge of Orangefield Park along the back of a row of houses – until it floods.
Then the Knock River bursts its banks, delivering destruction and misery for any home in its path.
But today, the river is to be redirected into a new channel through the heart of the east Belfast park, meaning relief for the 1,700 homes at risk from flooding.
The plan is part of the £35m Connswater Community Greenway project which involves creating a 9km linear park and wildlife corridor, 16 km of foot and cycle paths and 43 new bridges.
Work on the long-awaited East Belfast Flood Alleviation Scheme began last May, with 40,000 tonnes being moved to create a new river channel and flood plain.
The permanent diversion of the river, along with other flood defences, will provide flood protection for the vulnerable properties situated close to the river, including Orangefield Park, Orangefield Green and Sandhill Park.
In addition, the new flood plain will provide a new natural wildflower habitat, attracting wildlife back into the area, and even the return of fish to the river.
The flood plain will provide an outdoor classroom for local schools and groups and will be skirted by a new path network.
This phase of the greenway project is expected to open to the public in May, with the refurbishment of one bridge close to Grand Parade and the installation of two more, connecting Orangefield Park to Grenville Park and Orangefield Lane.
Meanwhile, work has been carried out to extend Orangefield Park through land that was previously owned by Belfast Education and Library Board and connect it to the Clarawood housing estate.
Eventually, walkers and cyclists will be able to make their way on traffic-free routes all the way from the Braniel estate and the Cregagh Glen down the Knock and Loop rivers and along the banks of the Connswater River to Victoria Park.
Wendy Langham, programme manager of the Connswater Community Greenway, said: "Moving the Knock River supports the environment and greatly enhances the park, whilst also addressing major flooding problems in this area.
"This is a major step forward in the development of Connswater Community Greenway Project, coupled with the recent works in Victoria Park, including the installation of the landmark Sam Thompson Bridge.
"We are literally building bridges and moving rivers – connecting people and places in east Belfast and beyond," said Ms Langham.
Rivers Agency's director of engineering, Pat Aldridge, said: "This solution to flooding is an excellent example of how to work with natural river processes, support a healthy river ecosystem and enhance the social and recreational facilities in an area that was at high flood risk.
"I am confident that this latest development will go a long way towards alleviating the anxiety experienced by residents, businesses and property owners who have experienced repeated flooding in the past."
Phase 1 of the Connswater Community Greenway Project has focused on Orangefield and Victoria Parks, with work scheduled to be completed this spring.
Phase 2 will begin in summer 2014, with completion of the project expected in early 2016.