Battle of Boyne Bridge goes on, say campaigners

Billy Dickson speaking at a protest at the Boyne Bridge in August
Billy Dickson speaking at a protest at the Boyne Bridge in August

Campaigners battling to save a historic bridge in Sandy Row have said they will fight on despite what they describe as a “serious setback”.

On Tuesday night at a meeting of Belfast City Council’s planning committee Translink’s proposals for a new £175m transport hub – which would see the demolition of the Boyne Bridge – were given unanimous backing.

The old Saltwater Bridge which was also known as the Great Bridge of Belfast

The old Saltwater Bridge which was also known as the Great Bridge of Belfast

The final decision will be taken by the Department of Infrastructure, however Billy Dickson of the Boyne Bridge Defenders said the group has taken some consolation in the news that the 400-year-old bridge underneath the Boyne Bridge will be retained.

He said: “The battle to save the Boyne Bridge will still go on, despite the serious setback when Belfast City Council’s planning committee unanimously voted in favour of Translink’s Hub proposals, which includes demolishing the Boyne Bridge.

“The only consolation for the Boyne Bridge campaigners was that whatever remains of the 1642 Salt Water Bridge will remain in situ.”

At the planning meeting architect Declan Hill made a presentation on behalf of the campaigners where he presented alternative plans which did not involve the demolition of the Boyne Bridge.

Mr Dickson also spoke at the meeting, demanding a review of Translink’s proposals, backed by 3,000 signatures on an online petition.

The Boyne Bridge was built in 1936 incorporating arches from its predecessor – Saltwater Bridge – built by Lord Edward Chichester in 1642.

Although it is no longer instantly recognisable as a bridge, it is believed that two of the three original arches are still underneath the current structure. Until such times as the Boyne Bridge is removed, the structural condition of the older bridge – used by King William on his march to the Boyne in 1690 – is unknown.

Dr Eamon Phoenix told listeners to BBC NI’s Talkback programme that the bridge was a very historic one made unique by the fact “so many royalists and republican armies have gone over [it]”.

A Translink spokesperson said: “The proposals for the Belfast Transport Hub seek to preserve the remains of the older Saltwater Bridge. It is also intended to reuse and integrate elements of the Boyne Bridge into the contemporary design including steel, lights and the name plaque.”

An archaeological assessment will be carried out to determine how much of the Saltwater Bridge remains.

The spokesperson said Translink was delighted to have their plan endorsed by Belfast City Council.