Date: 16 Dec 2022
Sections of a three-metre-high interface wall have been removed and construction has got underway on a new EU-funded shared community space in west Belfast
The Black Mountain Shared Space Project will see a new purpose-built, cross-community facility open in winter 2023 at an interface area between the Ballygomartin and Springfield communities.
The new centre will provide vital services to both communities in a welcoming and neutral shared space. It will include a mix of multi-purpose rooms, offices and informal gathering areas, with an extensive programme of activities planned to encourage people from different backgrounds to spend time together.
The project will be delivered by Belfast City Council thanks to funding from the EU’s PEACE IV Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB). Match-funding will be provided by the Department for Communities and the Department of Rural and Community Development in Ireland.
Belfast Lord Mayor, Councillor Christina Black, said: “We want to create a welcoming, safe, fair and inclusive city for all, and this project will make a significant contribution to these objectives. Removing physical barriers and providing first-class, shared community facilities is vital if we are serious about building bridges and moving forward together as a city.
“While this is a significant investment, I have no doubt that it will be money well spent. Creating a shared space for people from different backgrounds and cultures to mix, along with a comprehensive ongoing programme of activities, will be transformative for both communities.”
Patrick Anderson, Head of Belfast Regeneration Directorate from the Department for Communities said: “I congratulate everyone involved for their efforts in getting the project to this stage. Today’s event represents a major milestone which marks the first significant steps in the transformation of this previously derelict site into a state-of-the-art shared space facility for the whole community. The project, once finished, will be a great asset. It will act as a hub for community development with a focus on improving the health and wellbeing of the people in the area.”
Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys TD, said: “I want to congratulate Belfast City Council and their project partners, Black Mountain Shared Space project, the Northern Ireland Housing Executive and Northside Partnership in Dublin on their achievements to date. I am pleased to see this significant project get underway, having secured over €7.1m under the EU PEACE IV programme. The sharing of knowledge and support between this cross-border partnership will result in the creation of a lasting legacy, for the benefit of the wider community.
“It gives me great pleasure to see these organisations working together on the transformation of approximately 1.5 hectares of this 6-hectare site into a modern neutral shared facility, while also opening up the social, economic and environmental potential for further opportunities for the remainder of the site going forward. The commencement of this PEACE IV project will be a major boost for the area and my Department will work with all parties to ensure delivery of this essential project that will have a transformative effect on the local area.”
Gina McIntyre, CEO of the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB), said: “The peace wall that was on this site was a very visible reminder of the divisions that are part of our history. Segregation between communities creates tension, divides neighbours and hinders economic development and the provision of public services.
Therefore, I am delighted to see how this shared space will have a transformative effect, bringing future generations together and having significant and cultural significance for the entire area. This facility will provide the space for cross-community participation and is a great example of how the continued commitment and funding for peace from the European Union PEACE IV Programme can have tangible results for the region.”
Paul Millar, Chairman of Black Mountain Shared Space Project, said: “Since 2010 when the group was established, we have worked tirelessly to improve community relations. We do this by working with people on the ground to break down barriers and deliver joint programming within the community. This new shared space will be a game changer however. It will give us a shared base which will allow us to build on the progress that has been made in recent years and move forward confidently together.”
For more information on Belfast’s PEACE IV shared spaces capital projects, visit www.belfastcity.gov.uk/sharedspaces