Northern Ireland

Community groups' festival to offer glimpse of traffic-free Botanic Avenue

Getting ready for the Open Botanic Festival are (l-r) Queen’s University's Agustina Martire alongside Briege Arthurs and Maggie McKeever from the Forward South Partnership
Getting ready for the Open Botanic Festival are (l-r) Queen’s University's Agustina Martire alongside Briege Arthurs and Maggie McKeever from the Forward South Partnership Getting ready for the Open Botanic Festival are (l-r) Queen’s University's Agustina Martire alongside Briege Arthurs and Maggie McKeever from the Forward South Partnership

COMMUNITY groups in south Belfast will tomorrow hold a festival showcasing the potential for pedestrianising Botanic Avenue.

Four groups from Donegall Pass, Sandy Row, the Donegall Road and the Holyland area are working on a consultation process designed to make the tree-lined thoroughfare a more family-friendly space.

The Open Botanic Festival takes place from noon to 3pm and will feature music, workshops and food, as well as health and community stalls.

The road will be closed to cars for the duration of the event – offering a glimpse of what a permanently traffic-free Botanic Avenue may look like.

The work of the groups is part of a wider discussion with Belfast City Council and its 'Bolder Vision Strategy', which includes plans to redevelop Shaftesbury Square.

Briege Arthurs from the Forward South Partnership said she wanted people from the area to have a say in shaping its future.

"Often as areas are redeveloped, local voices are not considered," she said.

"There has been significant discussion around making Shaftesbury Square more accessible, safe and friendly and it’s important that people are heard."

Forward South has worked in close collaboration with architecture and planning specialists at Queen’s University Belfast. They carried out extensive research into the issues affecting south Belfast's inner city last year.

Senior lecturer Dr Agustina Martire said tomorrow's event could be a catalyst for shaping the future of Botanic Avenue.

“One of the main issues highlighted is a lack of space for people to walk or cycle," she said.

"Parked cars and heavy traffic leave very little room for people to navigate Botanic Avenue on foot or bike – it’s particularly difficult for people with young children, prams or in wheelchairs."

She said research from cities in Europe had shown how pedestrianising busy streets "actually boosts trade and footfall".

"It’s good for business and it’s good for people," Dr Martire said.

Lawrence Street Workshops, a local collective of artists and craftspeople, led by Martin Carter, has been involved in supporting the architecture students, offering skills, resources and time toward making the festival a reality.