Stormont spends £500,000 on Belfast footbridge plan but has 'no money' to build it
HALF a million pounds of public funds have been spent on a south Belfast footbridge plan which Stormont says it doesn't have enough money to build.
Proposals for the Lagan pedestrian and cycle bridge were first unveiled in 2014 and planning permission was granted early last year.
But last month the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) said it "does not have the funding required" to construct the crossing, and that the project is not on its "current prioritised list".
It has since emerged that Stormont has so far spent £499,000 developing the proposal.
The spending includes £24,000 on a feasibility study and £475,000 on works to obtain statutory approvals, according to a Freedom of Information response to The Irish News.
The bridge, which would link the Gasworks site with the opposite riverbank, requires an estimated overall spend of between £7m and £9m if pursued to completion.
Alliance councillor Emmet McDonough-Brown called for the bridge to be built.
"There are clear questions from a value-for-money perspective. They can't spend public money on a project they're not going to deliver," he said.
He added that DfI should "put this project on its capital build list and demonstrate a commitment to new walking and cycling routes in Belfast".
DfI did not respond to questions, including why the project is not a priority.
Last month, it said the previous executive had approved funding for "flagship projects" and so there was "limited headroom" to fund the bridge.
A spokeswoman said the previous minister, Sinn Féin's Chris Hazzard, had asked the department to "progress to tender stage, should the necessary funding become available".
"The relative priority of the bridge for funding will be a matter for the incoming minister," she said.