Department re-imagines ‘dismal’ junction at heart of Belfast nightlife

Google image of Shaftesbury Square
Google image of Shaftesbury Square

Belfast’s dilapidated Shaftesbury Square could become a new public transport hub, an Executive report said.

More than 84,000 residents are connected with the city centre via its busy commuter routes.

The junction – which lies to the south of the city centre and is at the heart of a long-established hub for dining and nightlife – is in a “dismal” state, with extensive vacancy and building abandonment on all sides, the report said.

It recommended slowing traffic speeds and providing safe pedestrian access plus rapid transit lanes.

The report added: “It is a bleak and hostile environment for all who pass through other than motorists.

“It should be of the highest priority to reclaim this as an attractive inner urban space, which is a hub of activity.”

The report was published on Tuesday and was prepared by the Department for Communities, in conjunction with the South Belfast Partnership Board (a charitable body which features councillors and businesspeople among its 25 members).

From Monday to Friday, 684 buses pass through Shaftesbury Square each day, but stops have been pushed into neighbouring streets to the benefit of private motorists, the report, published by the department said.

The review concluded: “Shaftesbury Square is a potential hub for public transport.”

It is also very close to Botanic Station, with 80 trains each week day.

The report said there was considerable merit in enhancing the existing station facilities.

It recommended simplifying traffic lanes and ensuring vehicle speeds are reduced to 20 mph. Others included:

:: Removing large traffic islands with no useful purpose.

:: Simplifying the arrangement of pedestrian crossings.

:: Ensuring rapid transit vehicles are given precedence.

:: Providing quality facilities for passengers using a rapid transit system in the heart of the square.

:: Removing all bus stops from adjoining streets and relocating them into a pair of stops in the centre of the square.

:: Providing dedicated cycle routes through its entire length from north to south.

It said parts of neighbouring Great Victoria Street were also in dismal condition, with extensive deterioration of buildings, high levels of vacancy and numerous cleared sites.

The report stated: “Where there has been redevelopment, many of the replacement buildings are hopelessly disjointed, almost of every imaginable mass, height, scale, form and detailing.

“The decay of the buildings is far advanced on a considerable length of the eastern side and while the western side is generally in use, it also has significant physical and functional problems.”

The report is called a “development framework”

The point of it, said the department, is to “help guide statutory bodies and private developers over the next decade” when it comes to plans for the area.

There is no public consultation arising from it.

Plans can be found by clicking this link: bit.ly/2fwZnMY