Creation of 16km of foot and cycle paths resulting in a 9 km linear park combining flood alleviation work with Green Infrastructure investment to promote health and physical activity in East Belfast.
EastSide Partnership conceived this Green Infrastructure project. Planning and preconstruction took from 2007-2013. Community engagement started in 2011. Belfast City Council partnering with the Rivers Agency delivered the project. Phase 1 works and the PARC study evaluation project began in 2013. Construction completed in April 2017. The Greenway opened officially in September 2017, accompanied by a final evaluation report.
East Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK
What problem did it address?
The Connswater, Knock and Loop Rivers had been long-neglected with a history of flash flooding. The rivers’ ecological status was ‘poor’.
East Belfast has long been an area of high social need with high levels of poor health, low skills and poor living environment.
How did it do it?
Connswater Community Gateway (CCG) is a large-scale, multi-partner, complex project with multiple objectives. A Green Infrastructure approach integrated health, biodiversity, economic regeneration and flooding objectives.
Community engagement was a key part of the project. It began two years before the phase 1 works started. The project team organised 3 high-profile park events (with 452 events in total), The CCG project communicated to a wide audience. It reached 7.2 million people across various media activities, with 13,000 followers on social media.
Enabling volunteering was another key aspect. Volunteers provided 6,780 hours of valuable work worth over £45,000.
A phased approach made sections of the Greenway accessible to the community as quickly as possible. Bridges, trails and parks opened throughout the project lifetime.
The project established an evaluation framework with environmental, social and economic targets This enabled the project team to take appropriate actions to achieve desired outcomes and helped provide an indication of value for money.
The PARC study (Physical Activity and the Regeneration of Connswater) used ‘before-and-after’ research. It evaluated the beneficial effect of the project on residents. It also assessed the cost-effectiveness and social return on investment of the project.
Who has benefitted and how?
The greenway benefits 40,000 people. The project is all about people, their opportunities, health and quality of life. The project engaged 30,000 people, 300 groups and 3,000 pupils from 32 schools. 300 people gained employment or training through the project.
The Flood Alleviation Scheme now protects 1,700 properties from flooding.
How much did it cost and how was it funded?
The project funding was £40m. The £23.6m Big Lottery Funds helped release £4m from Belfast City Council, £3.7m from the Department for Communities NI and £8.7m from the Department for Infrastructure NI.
The National Prevention Research Initiative provided £1.1m for the PARC evaluation study.
Evidence of success
The project created many Green Infrastructure assets: 16 km cycling and walking paths, 16 ha of accessible green space, 8 tourism and heritage trails 27 bridges, play facilities and public art. It also created the high-profile C.S. Lewis Square.
Twice as many people now use the area. The established the cost-effectiveness in achieving health benefits.
The PARC found that if 2% of the inactive population in East Belfast become active because of the greenway, the health benefits would equate to an economic return of £500m in 40 years (more than 12 times the project cost).
The greenway is now attracting people from outside the area and tourists from abroad, stimulating the local economy.
The Connswater Community Greenway received several high-profile awards including Green Flag Award status and the British Construction Industry Award.
The CCG project played a significant role in informing the NI Greenways Strategy.
The Connswater Community Greenway Trust (CCGT) will ensure the long-term legacy and sustainability of the CCG. CCGT and Belfast City Council now deliver a forty-year management programme.
Three health-related targets were not met. Changing human attitudes and behaviour is difficult and can take a long time. Effective communication, community engagement and ongoing promotion are essential to complement infrastructure investment to encourage physical activity.
In total, only 6 of the 34 very ambitious targets were not achieved. Ensuring SMART targets and considering practicalities of data collection will improve performance in future projects.
A year-long dispute involving contractors delayed the start of construction work. Learning from this experience will help better delivery of future complex, multi-partner projects involving several funders.
Connswater Community Greenway Trust Manager
T: 028 90451900
Website and link to most relevant resources
Connswater Community Greenway website https://www.connswatergreenway.co.uk/
Connswater Community Greenway Evaluation Report (2017)
Strategic Plan for Greenways (NI Department for Infrastructure, 2016)
Seven reports of the PARC study cover aspects such as a the physical activity loyalty scheme and an evaluation of the cost-effectiveness of the Greenway project.
Project partners and contractors
Belfast City Council
Connswater Community Greenway Trust
The National Lottery Community Fund
Northern Ireland’s Rivers Agency
BSG Civil Engineering – Construction (phase 1)
McAdam Design – Project Design (phase 1)
AECOM (phase 1)
Jacobs – Flood Alleviation Work (phase 1)
ARUP – responsible for overall design and project management (phase 2)
Farrans – main contractor (phase 2)
The Paul Hogarth Company – landscape design (phase 2)
ChandlerKBS – Cost consultant (Phase 2)