Campaigners hoping to save one of Belfast’s most historic bridges have launched an online petition to highlight their concerns.
The Boyne Bridge in the Sandy Row area, close to the Europa bus station, could be demolished to make way for a new £150 million transport hub.
King William is reputed to have crossed the old bridge on his way to the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 along with second-in-command the Duke of Schomberg.
The current bridge was built in 1936 but incorporates two arches of the original Great Bridge – also previously known as Brickill Bridge and Salt Water Bridge – which date back to 1642.
The petition states it has been launched “to demonstrate to the planning authorities the strength of public opinion,” and to call for “the retention of the present bridge with all its venerable and historic associations for nearly 400 years”.
The ‘Save the Boyne – no to demolition’ petition has been launched at www.avaaz.org.
It goes on to say: “To demolish the bridge, would be a great loss to the people of Belfast, Northern Ireland and all on the island of Ireland.”
Plans for the ambitious new project were put on public display at the Europa bus centre earlier this year.
At the time, Translink said the “overwhelming majority” of stakeholders support the plans for a new transport hub.
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”.
Billy Dickson has campaigned – through Blackstaff Residents Group and more recently through Boyne Bridge Defenders – to save the bridge which was built in 1936 incorporating arches from its predecessor, Saltwater Bridge, built by Lord Edward Chichester in 1642.
He is concerned the removal of the bridge is a feature of any plans under consideration, and fears there is no way to remove the current structure without also removing the much older section of the bridge.
“We are going to have a paper petition for Sandy Row only, which will be separate because we want to show the strength of support for keeping the bridge within the Sandy Row community. Then we are going to have a general paper petition that anyone else can sign, as well as the online one,” he said.
“I can’t see how they would remove the 1936 bridge and keep the 1642 one. If one bridge goes they both go. I feel very passionately about this and I would like others to get involved – and historical groups to rally round.”
The planning application was submitted earlier this month. If approved, work on the 20-acre site will begin early next year with the opening planned for 2021.
A spokeswoman for Translink said: “We continue to work closely with the local community in Sandy Row as part of our engagement to deliver the Belfast Transport Hub. We will continue to do so, as this important project progresses, in order to celebrate the history and heritage of one of the oldest areas in Belfast.”
A website for the campaign has been launched at www.boynebridge.co.uk
The petition can be found here