Translink has said the “overwhelming majority” of stakeholders are in support of its plan for a new transport hub, in spite of the protests at the removal of a historically significant bridge.
The latest proposals for the Belfast Hub were revealed on Monday much to the displeasure of Billy Dickson, who is campaigning to save the Boyne Bridge.
Translink said a public consultation held in autumn 2016 attracted “almost 2,000 responses from a wide range of stakeholders with the overwhelming majority (88%) supporting the principle of the new integrated public transport hub and two-thirds agreeing that it would be a high-quality gateway to Belfast for residents and visitors”.
Mr Dickson does not believe the new hub will enhance nearby Sandy Row, not least because of the removal of the historically important Boyne Bridge.
Through Blackstaff Residents Group and more recently through Boyne Bridge Defenders, Mr Dickson has campaigned to save the bridge which was built in 1936 incorporating arches from its predecessor – Saltwater Bridge – built by Lord Edward Chichester in 1642.
The British Empire Medal holder said: “The removal of the bridge is clearly still part of their proposals.
“I can’t see how they would remove the 1936 bridge and keep the 1642 one. If one bridge goes they both go.
“From a historical point of view, how can we as a country agree to the removal of a 1642 bridge?
“If this was an old house on Stranmillis where some well-known artist lived I have no doubt people would be up in arms.
“It will take the people of Belfast and Northern Ireland to rally around and say ‘This is our bridge and we want it to remain’.
“If that message doesn’t come across the bridge will disappear.”
A Translink spokesperson said: “The current Boyne Bridge was constructed in 1936 to accommodate the railway. There is now no longer a requirement for this bridge within the new design proposals, however, we will be taking steps to respect the local heritage of the surrounding area, including the potential remains of the nearby older Saltwater Bridge.
“We will continue to work closely with the local community to celebrate the history and heritage of Sandy Row and tell its story as one of the oldest areas of Belfast.”
Running until March 10, the next stage of engagement gives the public an opportunity to discuss the latest hub designs incorporating key changes based on previous consultation feedback.
The plans will be presented to the public on Thursday in the conference room on the top floor of the Europa Hotel.
They will also be exhibited from Monday, February 27 to Friday, March 10 in the Europa bus centre.
Copies of the latest hub newsletter featuring a consultation survey are available in the three main Belfast Translink stations.