Sandy Row residents’ group fights to save Boyne Bridge

Billy Dickson on the Boyne Bridge in Sandy Row which a newly formed group is fighting to protect

Billy Dickson on the Boyne Bridge in Sandy Row which a newly formed group is fighting to protect

An organisation has been formed to ensure Belfast’s oldest bridge stays where it is.

The Boyne Bridge, which dates back to 1642, is under threat due to plans for an enhanced transport hub close to Sandy Row.

The Boyne Bridge Defenders became an official grouping on Wednesday night, less than 48 hours before the first consultation deadline for the project closed today.

Billy Dickson, who is part of the steering committee, said the organisation was firmly opposed to any plans that would see the removal of the historic bridge and its two original archs.

The British Empire Medal holder said: “Because of my background knowledge and history, I couldn’t step aside and let this happen.”

Mr Dickson said there were other groupings in Sandy Row who “were not committed to keeping the bridge”.

“They seem to think the new development is going to bring economic prosperity,” he said. “We aim to reflect the vast majority of people in Sandy Row who don’t want the bridge to go.”

Mr Dickson said he believed it was possible to create a hub which brought extra footfall to Sandy Row without removing Boyne Bridge.

He said: “The same people this hub will be bringing into Sandy Row should also learn of its history. For that reason the bridge and its arches need to be maintained.

“This is the oldest bridge in Belfast with a rich history attached to it. We want to promote the Boyne Bridge as a major tourist and educational attraction for Sandy Row and the city of Belfast.”

Translink said all feedback from the consultation would be taken on board.

A spokesperson said: “The design proposal presented offers the only option to support and maximise the wider regeneration opportunities for the area, reconnecting the Sandy Row community with the rest of the city while delivering a world-class transport interchange to attract even more people to use public transport and active travel modes.

“We have been speaking to the local community as part of our consultation and many of them support the new proposal. We do recognise the importance of local history and heritage and are committed to sensitively enhancing the proposed development area.

“All feedback will be taken into consideration as we develop our proposals.”

Further consultation is expected in early 2017.