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Transport or Trees? Decision Time

Transport or Trees?
Dr Irvine LaveryNorman TaylorGerry RiceValerie Smyth

Gerry Rice is a Councillor on Castlereagh Borough Council. Castlereagh Borough contains Belvoir Forest.

Q. What would be the impact of a super-route on Belvoir Forest?

Listen to the audio versionA. Well as a local councillor for this area and also a resident of Carryduff I would not be happy with a super- route going through the forest and I feel from the knowledge I've gained over the years from the people who live in this area they would be unhappy about a super-route and a road being built through the forest park which really is an asset to South Belfast and to Castlereagh. I believe and I know many people have the same view that the forest park should be kept as it is. In fact we hope that it might be enhanced at some stage and properly managed, but to put a bus route through it or indeed a major road would be disastrous.

Q. What would be the effect of doing nothing?

Listen to the audio versionA. Well we will probably have to go back the last ten years to see what has happened in the area, there has been no multi-sectoral approach between planners, roads service and Translink to look at when they were allowing development to take place in this area to look at the impact this was going to have on the roads. They allowed development, I think we have had 5000 houses built in a very short time, and the more development obviously the more cars. If this is allowed to continue, and also development in the hinterlands as far out as Newcastle and Kilkeel with all that traffic coming in, I believe in the next few years we will have a gridlock situation, and people are becoming more and more frustrated at the journey times into Belfast in cars, and the only alternative at this time is to rethink how we plan for the future.

Q. What is your solution for the future?

Listen to the audio versionA. My suggestion, and having spoken to the Roads Service and the Department of the Environment would be a corridor of a bus route, a tram like bus system that could use both road and track, and I think if this sort of investment was put in, I think it would look to the future in terms of the environment, it can be used on roads or rail, it could skirt the forest park and therefore preserving the forest as it is, and it would also reduce the pollution going in to Belfast. The PM10 particulates (Air pollution) in Northern Ireland are probably the highest in the UK, and many of the problems that the inner city children are facing are probably the highest levels of asthma rates in the whole of the UK. If we had a cheap fast system, a system that was going to skirt in to Belfast, taking away from the road, skirt round the forest and get people to their jobs much more quickly, I feel at that stage you are 'dangling a carrot' in front of people and you will get people starting to use public transport. But it is also going to take education as well to get people out of their nice comfortable cars, and while we have a poor transport system, and we don't have a fast efficient system,
it's expensive and people are going to continue using their cars, and we are going to have in the next 10/20 years more environmental impact of pollution levels, destruction of the forest by putting roads in. If we carry on down that road we will end up with more
development, the roads will become more crowded, and you will not have resolved your problem, because you are going to go back ten years to what we have now.

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