Fruit-and-veg to replace eyesore

Groundwork Northern Ireland's Landscape Architect Helen Turton (right) with Sam Drake from Denmark Street Community Centre.

Groundwork Northern Ireland's Landscape Architect Helen Turton (right) with Sam Drake from Denmark Street Community Centre.

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A patch of long-disused waste ground is now ripe for transformation into a community garden.

The site, opposite Denmark Street Community Centre in the lower Shankill, has seen planting beds and a polytunnel installed ready for flower, fruit and vegetables to be grown.

The area was described as about a quarter of the size of a football pitch and had been an empty “eyesore” throughout much of living memory, according to Martin Flynn from Groundwork Northern Ireland – a not-for-profit group which has helped with the project.

He believed it had been fenced off more-or-less since the nearby Westlink was built, but now that the basics have been laid in place volunteers are “chomping at the bit” in readiness for planting.

Fruit trees, a play area and benches have also been put in, and new fencing is expected to be built around it in due course.

It has been created with the help of a funding scheme called the Alpha Programme.

It redistributes tax credits received for the running of Mullaghglass landfill site near Lisburn to community projects.

Groups within a 10-mile radius of the landfill can apply for up to £50,000 in funding.

In this case, the full £50,000 was sought, and granted.

Helen Turton, the landscape architect from Groundwork NI, said: “There is still some more planting work to be undertaken and new fencing to be erected over the next few months but hopefully it won’t be too much longer until it’s finally opened to the local community.”

Sam Drake from Denmark Street Community Centre said: “We are already receiving great comments from local people who are all saying that it’s great to see something really positive finally happen in the lower Shankill.”

Bill Shaw, director of the church-based 174 Trust on the Antrim Road, which also helped bring the project to fruition, said: “It has taken a long time to develop but it has been worth the wait and the result so far is such a wonderful transformation to this previously abandoned site.”

The creation of the community growing project follows the success of another scheme at the opposite end of the Shankill.

There, close to the New Barnsley police station, a patch of waste ground was transformed about 18 months ago into a similar fruit-and-veg garden, with volunteers growing and harvesting the fresh produce themselves.