'No money' for Belfast footbridge says Stormont department
A NEW footbridge planned for south Belfast cannot be built because there is not enough money available, a Stormont department has said.
Proposals for the Lagan pedestrian and cycle bridge – estimated to cost between £7m and £9m – were first unveiled in 2014 and planning permission was granted early last year.
It would link the Gasworks site with the opposite riverbank.
But the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) has said it "does not have the funding required to take forward construction of the bridge at present".
"Planning approval was granted by Belfast City Council in April 2016, the bridge orders have been made and the outline design for the bridge has been completed," a senior official said.
"This would enable to project to progress should funding become available."
The response came in a letter to Alliance councillor Emmet McDonough-Brown.
In a further email, an official said the bridge is "not on the department's current prioritised list".
Many decisions at Stormont have stalled because of the absence of an executive, but the letter did not mention any need for ministerial approval.
Mr McDonough-Brown said it was "unclear why the proposal was developed if it is not to be delivered", and called on DfI to complete the project.
"This bridge is a critical piece of infrastructure for south Belfast. In addition to creating a new route to connect communities and the city centre, it would help alleviate traffic along arterial routes," he said.
"Cycling is growing in Belfast and with the council's bike share scheme we are investing in sustainable transport.
"The department should put this shovel-ready project on its capital build programme and deliver this bridge for the residents of Belfast."
DfI said the previous minister Chris Hazzard had asked the department to obtain the necessary approvals for the project 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 for Infrastructure to determine," a spokeswoman said.
She added that the executive had "approved long-term capital funding for a number of flagship projects".
"Once the funding for these has been set aside within the department budget and existing contractual commitments and essential maintenance requirements are met, there is likely to be limited headroom for any new projects such as the bridge," she said.