Rice is a Councillor on Castlereagh Borough Council. Castlereagh Borough
contains Belvoir Forest.
What would be the impact of a super-route on Belvoir Forest?
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.
What would be the effect of doing nothing?
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.
What is your solution for the future?
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.