Take Back The City letter on Mackies site
11 August 2023
Below we carry a letter sent from Participation and the Practice and Rights / Take Back the City coalition to Belfast City Council about the development of the former Mackies site.
Despite the shortage of public housing in the city, and the accompanying rise in the number of people classified as homeless, planners have rejected use of this site for housing. Instead, the Belfast City Council has backed a plan for the site to be turned into a greenway. This was driven through by Sinn Fein and the DUP on the understanding that there could be no change to the composition of the community in that district. Though not stated openly the clear implication is that the sectarian demographics and divisions must be preserved even if opportunities to address social need are lost. The former Mackies site, which could accommodate hundreds of housing units, faces the prospect of being turned into yet another unofficial sectarian interface. The current plan represents a complete capitulation to bigotry.
Socialist Democracy is supportive of the various lobbying efforts to have the plan overturned. We encourage individuals and organisations based in Belfast to use the information presented here to make their own representations to Belfast City Council. (ed)
Ms Kate Bentley
Director of Planning and Building Control
Belfast City Council
By email: GeldenhuysT@belfastcity.gov.uk, email@example.com
Cc: Mr Colum Boyle, Permanent
Secretary, Department for Communities PermSecSupport@Communities-ni.gov.uk;
Mr Patrick Anderson, Director, Belfast Regeneration Directorate DfC BRD BSU Support BRDBSUsupport@communities-ni.gov.uk
Dr Julie Harrison, Permanent Secretary, Department for Infrastructure, firstname.lastname@example.org
27th July 2023
I am writing to you on behalf of the Take Back the City coalition.
As per our previous correspondence with Belfast City Council CEO, Mr John Walsh, of 5th July 2023, we would be keen to meet at your earliest available opportunity to discuss opportunities for the sustainable development of Belfast arising from the Local Development Plan and its secondary stage, the Local Policies Plan. We understand from meetings with various departments, elected representatives and officials that you are the council officer with overall responsibility for the plan. We represent a range of groups and individuals who wish to inform the decision making process.
Could you please outline the process for the Local Policies Plan including:
• What role will you play
in the process as the council officer responsible?
• What opportunities exist for the public, including families directly impacted by homelessness and housing stress, to inform the decision making process, and how will people be made aware of them?
• When will the next stage of the development plan be open for consultation and how long will such consultation last?
• What steps will the council take to ensure that the consultation is accessible to the public?
• What role will councillors and committees play in decision making on zoning land as part of the Local Policies Process?
• How will equality impacts be assessed during decision making on zoning land as part of the Local Policies Process?
• How will final decisions be made and what criteria will be used for the zoning of land?
You will be aware of the Take Back the City coalition’s plans to develop Belfast's first inclusive and sustainable community on the Mackies site in West Belfast. You may know that Matthew Lloyd Architects were recently judged the winner of the international design competition for the Mackies site sponsored by the Oak Foundation, following an extensive outreach and engagement process. Matthew Lloyd and his colleagues are now working to develop a mixed-use plan for the site that incorporates and enhances the Forth Meadow Communi-ty Greenway currently under construction by Belfast City Council. You can find out more at the following url: https://www.takebackthecity.ie/competition
The plans, which are replicable at other viable sites, both in Belfast and across Northern Ireland, align with various council objectives and human rights and equality obligations regarding the provision of housing and employment. The plans can help council to combat climate change and meet sustainable development goal as per the objectives of the LDP. You will also be aware of council’s duties to pay due regard to racial and religious inequalities in all decision making– inequalities which are well documented in Belfast, including more than 5,000 homeless children and a disproportionate number of Catholic families on the social housing waiting list.
The Take Back the City plans aim to address these inequalities in social housing provision through a genuinely community-led process. The LDP process provides a unique opportunity for council to support progress in all of these areas at the Mackies site, without prejudice to existing projects such as the development of the various phases of the community green-way.
On behalf of those we represent, including local residents and families on the social housing waiting list, we are formally requesting that you in your capacity as the officer with lead responsibility for Belfast City Council’s Local Development Plan, objectively assess the potential of the full Mackies site (both publicly owned land and all private land including that owned by Invest NI and Braidwater) for a sustainable housing-led, mixed-use development, including mixed tenure housing which can incorporate and complement the existing Forth Meadow Community Greenway.
The site has been largely vacant for over twenty years. Various sections have been zoned in various ways in the past including industrial and parkland. The site has the capacity to deliver over 900 homes, including a significant number of social homes in the area of highest housing need and long-standing religious inequality in social housing provision in Northern Ireland. We respectfully request that the site is rezoned for a housing-led mixed-use development in the Local Policies Plan.
Director, Participation and the Practice of Rights