Belfast Telegraph

We don't like this peace wall ... can we have a nicer one?

Residents get new 'aesthetically pleasing' fence at cost of £10,000

By Rebecca Black

One of Belfast's peace walls is being transformed into a more "aesthetically pleasing structure" in a £10,000 redevelopment, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

Brown Square is a small loyalist area at the bottom of the Shankill Road which borders the lower Falls and is enclosed on three sides by peace walls.

Belfast City Council and the Department of Justice are currently in discussions with residents about replacing the current tin barrier with a "more appropriate and aesthetically pleasing fence".

The section of the peace wall being discussed is a small part that currently divides Brown Square from Belfast Metropolitan College's Millfield campus.

It was originally built in 1969 in the very early days of the Troubles when there were houses on the site.

During a meeting of Belfast City Council's parks and leisure committee last week, this section of the peace wall was described as "not a live interface".

DUP councillor Naomi Thompson said it had not been a live interface for some time since the new college campus replaced housing which was previously on the site.

The committee heard that the current tin fencing provides a canvas for graffiti and is "unsightly".

This boundary currently consists of two sections. The bottom is a metal panelled fence owned by the council which is around seven feet (210cm) high and shows a solid face into a small play park in Brown Square.

It is topped by a second paladin-style fence which measures a further 210cm in height and is owned by the Department of Justice.

A local community group has requested that the metal top part of the peaceline be retained for use in an art project.

The committee has agreed to replace it with a perimeter fence of expanded metal weld mesh paladin to a minimum height of 2.4 metres.

This is intended to improve both security and the aesthetics of the park where it is located.

The cost of the removal of the fence will be met by the Department of Justice, while the council committee agreed to spend £10,000 upgrading the park – which includes replacing the peace wall.

This decision will have to be ratified at the next full meeting of the council.

A spokesman for the Brown Square community declined to comment.

Head of the Community Relations Council Peter Osborne said while he welcomed the visual improvement to the fence, ideally he would like to see the barriers coming down.

He said: "There is currently good work being done to make walls look and improve the general environment and how communities can better see each other, but in the long term intensive work needs to be done between communities so there is no need for interface barriers."

The Shared Future Strategy from the First and Deputy First Ministers includes the target of bringing down all of Northern Ireland's peace walls by 2023.

Background

There are almost 50 peace walls, mostly located in Belfast, which stretch in total for more than 21 miles. History was made in 2011 when the gate in the centre of Alexandra Park in north Belfast was opened during the daytime. The gate was temporarily closed again following a spate of anti social behaviour, but has been reopened with adapted opening times since last summer. However, there has been no progress on any of the other peace walls.

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