Cars could be banned from Botanic Avenue as community groups consult on regeneration

South Belfast community groups are to be consulted over plans to make Botanic Avenue more ‘family friendly’ as part of a major regeneration project.

One option on the table is to ban vehicles from the popular thoroughfare.

Four groups from Donegall Pass, Sandy Row, Donegall Road and the Holyland area are currently working on a consultation to revamp the area ahead of the Open Botanic Festival on Sunday.

The festival will run from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. and will see the busy area temporarily closed to cars, with a temporary bike lane installed as the community hosts a “range of fun events”.

It will feature kiosks by local artists and craftspeople, co-designed by architecture students from Queen’s University Belfast, as well as music, food and health stalls.

The regeneration plans, which are being discussed in conjunction with Belfast City Council as part of its Bolder Vision strategy, include a potential redevelopment of Shaftesbury Square and possibly the pedestrianization of Botanic Avenue.

“We want the people of this area to have a say in the future of this part of town,” said Briege Arthurs, chief executive of Forward South Partnership, which has conducted research in the area and recently published its Open Botanic report. .

“Often, when areas are redeveloped, local voices are not taken into account. There have been significant discussions to make Shaftesbury Square more accessible, safe and user-friendly and it is important that people are heard.

Dr Agustina Martire from Queen’s University Belfast said “the event could be a catalyst in shaping the future of Botanic Avenue”.

“It’s been eye-opening and amazing to work with community groups,” she said.

“There is so much going on in this dynamic space, but local people feel like they are not empowered to have a say in their own area. This project gives them a voice in their future.

“One of the main issues highlighted is the lack of space for people to walk or cycle. Parked cars and heavy traffic leave very little room for people to navigate Botanic Avenue on foot or by bike. bike.

“It’s particularly difficult for people with young children, strollers or wheelchairs. Other cities in Europe have started to pedestrianize busy streets. It’s good for business and it’s good for people. »

Jamie-Lee Peden, a parent support worker from Belfast South Community Resource in Sandy Row, said it meant “a lot to give people in the area a say”.

“A lot of people are worried about traffic, as well as anti-social behavior, and will avoid Botanic Avenue because of it,” she added.

Botanic SDLP councilor Gary McKeown said he had been “advocating for initiatives” like the event for some time.

“I hope we see more and more community projects like this spring up,” he said.

“I encourage everyone to go to Botanic Avenue on Sundays and enjoy the music, games and children’s activities, as well as visiting the great cafes, restaurants and shops the area has to offer.”