Concerns over plans for Sunday marathon

Runners in the Belfast City Marathon pass City Hall in 2017. Picture by Matt Mackey / Press Eye.

Proposals to move the Belfast marathon to a Sunday could have a serious impact on 21 churches based along the newly proposed route, it is claimed.

Plans to change the date and route of the annual event - which traditionally takes place on the Bank Holiday Monday in May - were discussed last night at Belfast City Council’s Growth and Regeneration Committee.

Belfast City Marathon Limited proposes moving it to Sunday 5 May in 2019 - and thereafter to the Sunday of the May Bank Holiday weekend.

They have also proposed a new route for 2019 which some nationalist councillors last night felt was an ‘east Belfast’ centred plan. Councillors were last night presented with a list of every road the new route would take - and the 21 churches based along that route.

DUP Alderman Brian Kingston said: “Our party will have very strong concerns about the impact on churches.

“But they [organisers] are saying they have already had conversations with churches along the route.”

The committee has asked the organisers to attend the council in two weeks to address concerns, he said.

“We have questions about how they will consult and what they will do to minimise disruption along the route,” he said.

The former Lord Mayor said the final decisions on the marathon would rest with the organisers.

“We want them to get on with their consultation about the plans,” he said.

The council is funding the event with a £26k grant.

According to the council agenda, the reasons for the change in date are to reduce business disruption on the Bank Holiday at the request of Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce. Another reason is that organisers have to pay policing costs for the event and the rates are more expensive on a bank holiday than on a Sunday.

But UUP councillor Jeffrey Dudgeon said the issue of most concern to councillors was whether the new route was fair.

“Most of the debate was about what route it should take,” he said.

Nationalists and the Alliance Party wanted it to take in the Ormeau Road, which the proposal does not include, he said.

“Some 95% of the discussion was whether or not the route should take in the Ormeau Road.

“The Stormont route which is proposed was seen as being more problematic with churches.

“Nobody was particularly defending the proposed route. Officials said it was really a matter for organisers.”

However he confirmed that organisers are seeking council approval for the changes.

“But it is for the organisers to plan the route and not for us to criticise.” he added.

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