Lagan Footbridge, Belfast

 

Status
Construction scheme (proposed)
Where
To construct a combined foot and cycle bridge across the River Lagan from the Gasworks site (near Cromac Street) to Ormeau Embankment.
Total Length
Bridge length approx 150m
Dates

1969 - Road bridge proposed at this location

1987 - Laganside Corporation proposes a footbridge at the location
2004 - Doran’s Gasworks Footbridge Feasibility Report published

Jun 2013 - DRD announces a new feasibility study
Jan 2014 - Public exhibition of nine options
17 Apr 2014 - Feasibility report selects three options for further study

7 Jan 2015 - Preferred option announced

28 & 29 Jan 2015 - Public exhibition of preferred option

28 May 2015 - Planning application submitted

16 Feb 2016 - Planning permission granted

Unknown date - To go out to tender (changed from Nov 2015 as of Sep 2015; itself changed from Sep 2015 as of Jul 2015)
Construction to take 17 months (as of Oct 2015)

Cost
£7-9m (as of Jan 2015)
(changed from £5.4m to £9.6m as of Apr 2014)
Photos / Map
See below.
See Also

General area map - Google Maps

Official page on scheme - DRD
Peace Bridge, Derry - on this site (similar structure)
More background - NI Greenways' Blog

Click here to jump straight down to updates for this scheme.

The idea of building a bridge over the Lagan from the former Gasworks site off Cromac Street, Belfast to Ormeau Embankment is not a new one. A major road bridge was proposed for the route in the 1969 "Belfast Transportation Plan". A less ambitious road bridge sited a little to the north survived in the scaled-back 1978 "Review of Transportation Strategy". This scheme even remained in the 1990 "Belfast Urban Area Plan 2001", albeit marked as "subject to review". None of these road bridges ever materialised, but the former road protection corridor on the west bank remains undeveloped at the time of writing (Jan 2015). In 1987 the group that would become Laganside Corporation proposed a footbridge on the route in their initial masterplan, and in 2004 they carried out a feasibility study and the scheme is mentioned as a possibility in the 2004 Belfast Metropolitan Transportation Plan. In 2005 Steven Patterson from sustainable transport charity Sustrans asked Belfast City Council to support the scheme and after 2007, when Laganside was wound up, Belfast City Council became one of the movers of the scheme along with Sustrans and the Department for Social Development. The current process began in June 2013 when the Minister for Regional Development (Danny Kennedy) announced a new feasibility study as part his wider scaling-up of the DRD's support for sustainable transport (eg the establishment of a "Cycling Unit" in autumn 2013).

A public exhibition of nine preliminary options was held in January 2014, and in response to this two further options were developed (3A and 10). Three options (3A, 6 and 10) were taken forward for further consideration in the Feasibility report which was published in April 2014. These three options are shown further down this page under "Development of Options". They varied in cost from £5.4m to £9.6m. In January 2015 Option 3A was selected as the preferred design. This will be a 140 metre long bridge with two pylons built close to the banks. The map below shows the route of the bridge in red, and the image below that shows an image of how it could look:



Lagan Footbridge Preferred Option
Lagan Footbridge preferred option, as of January 2015 [DRD TransportNI image]

The chosen option will require the removal of the existing "red bridge" on the west bank (which no longer serves a useful purpose anyway as the River Blackstaff is culverted today). It will have a deck 5.0 metres wide and will carry two "lanes" - a footway, and a separate cycleway. At the eastern end there will be a Toucan crossing on Ormeau Embankment and (presumably) a cycleway connecting that to the rest of Ormeau Park to the east. The total length is 141 metres and the steel pylons will be 40 metres tall. This makes it higher but shorter and cheaper than the Peace Bridge in Derry which also carries pedestrians and cyclists.

According to the DRD's 2014 Feasibility Report, the purpose of the bridge is fourfold:

  • to improve access to facilities on both sides of the river for local communities,
  • help encourage more sustainable commuting,
  • bring the ‘green’ area of Ormeau Park within convenient walking distance of the city centre and
  • provide a new link across the River Lagan.

Why is this bridge on the Northern Ireland Roads Site? I don't normally list footbridges on this web site. I have decided to include the Lagan Footbridge because (a) it is such a high-profile and particularly iconic structure and (b) because of its significant scale and cost.

Development of Options

The three options selected in April 2014 for further study were:

  • Option 3A (a variant on Option 3 shown at the exhibition) - a twin pylon cable stayed bridge at a cost of £5.8m.
  • Option 6 - a curved twin-span inclined bowstring arch at a cost of £5.4m.
  • Option 10 (a development of Option 3 shown at the exhibition) - a twin pylon cable stayed bridge extending into Ormeau Park at a cost of £9.6m.
Artist's impressions of the three options are shown below (with Ormeau Embankment to the bottom/right in each case) (all three are DRD TransportNI images):

3A >> Lagan Footbridge
                          Option 3A  6 >> Lagan Footbridge
                          Option 6

10 >> Lagan Footbridge
                          Option 10

Updates

1 May 2016: Sometime during the past week the scheme has now been quietly removed from the DRD's list of "future tenders", having sat for about six months with the date saying "to be confirmed". As I said in the previous update below, the scheme did not get a funding allocation and I suspect this was not anticipated by the scheme's planners. The fact that it has been removed entirely from the future tenders list suggests that there is now little hope of it being put out to tender in the near future. So another case of "watch this space". I have therefore moved this scheme back out of the list of "schemes likely get underway within 12 months" and back into "schemes in planning", as it now seems unlikely to get underway in the near future.

2 Mar 2016: A mixture of good and bad news about this scheme over the past few weeks. The good news is that the bridge was granted planning permission by Belfast City Council on 16 February (though oddly it doesn't report this on the Planning Portal web site). nigreenways offers some more detailed analysis of this planning meeting over on Bikefast.org. In October last year I noted that the plan to put the scheme out to tender in autumn 2015 mysteriously disappeared off the DRD web site in October 2015 and the date for this has now been given as "to be confirmed" for five months. So the bad news is that we now know why - the scheme has not been given a funding allocation (or rather, the £600,000 it has been given will only cover the design and legal costs). The Belfast Telegraph reports that the money need to actually build it has not been allocated. A DRD spokesperson is quoted as saying "As yet capital funding has not been secured to progress and consequently the timescales for appointing a contractor cannot be established". While this is true for all transport schemes, the fact that a timescale *did* appear on the DRD web site until October suggests that this situation was unexpected to the scheme's sponsors. So at the minute we really can't say much more - the scheme will basically now be parked until such times as funding is allocated. This is unfortunate given its merits and that its construction cost (£8m) is an almost inconsequential sum when compared to schemes like York Street Interchange (£125-165m) or the A6 dualling scheme at Toome (£120-140m).

29 Oct 2015: Something strange has happened to the timescale of this scheme, but I have not been able to ascertain what. Construction of the bridge had been due to go out to tender in September, and then this was pushed back to November. The DRD has now published their most recent procurement plan, and it lists this scheme but the timescale is now given as "To Be Confirmed", and no date of tender release is now listed on the DRD web site. I don't know why the timescale is suddenly so vague, but the vagueness suggests some complication has arisen for which a timescale is hard to estimate. The procurement plan gives the construction cost as £7.9m (though note that this is not the total project cost, which also includes planning and land acquisition) and a duration of 17 months.

14 Sep 2015: In July (see previous update below) the DRD web site was anticipating that the construction tender would be released in September 2015. This seems to have now been pushed back to November 2015. Planning permission (planning ref LA04/2015/0405/F) has still not been granted, though as previously noted a construction tender can still be released ahead of this, on the understanding that actual work can't take place until approval is granted. If the tender was released in November, then we could see a contractor appointed perhaps in the spring or summer of 2016 - assuming that the money is available at that time. Assuming a construction period of two years (and it may not take that long) the bridge could be in place and open by mid 2018, which is still in line with my prediction in January (see below).

5 Jul 2015: The DRD submitted their planning application on 28 May 2015 (planning ref LA04/2015/0405/F), following "pre-application" discussions which have been taking place for some months, and which are designed to avoid any obvious problems being included in the planning application. Because of the recent (from April) transfer of planning powers to the local councils, this application will be decided by Belfast City Council. Meanwhile, the DRD web site is saying that the scheme could go out to tender in September this year with an estimated construction cost of approximately £8m. Note that this is the cost of construction only - the overall project cost also includes design costs and land acquisition. It seems that this project is a high priority within the DRD as it is being progressed very rapidly compared to other transport schemes. While planning permission may not have been granted by September, this would not stop the project going out to tender. Appointing a contractor typically takes up to 9 months, so this process could be ongoing while the scheme navigates the planning process.

28 Jan 2015: A public exhibition was held today in Shaftesbury Recreation Centre, and another one will be held tomorrow (Thursday 29 January) in the Ozone Complex in Ormeau Park from 11am-7pm. I do not know what exactly is on display, but it is likely to be further information about the preferred option which was announced on 7 January. Meanwhile, the more detailed Stage 2 documentation is now on the DRD web site here, which includes detailed blueprints of the various proposed structures. There is enough there to keep civil engineering junkies occupied for some time!

11 Jan 2015: On 7 January the DRD Minister announced that of the three designs carried forward for further consideration, Option 3A - the twin pylon cable-stayed bridge - has been selected. The cost given (a rather vague £7-9m) is a good bit higher than the estimate of £5.8m for this design that was given in the April 2014 feasibility study. But to be fair, the feasibiltiy study did explicitly warn that it was very difficult to estimate the cost of schemes like this without the further work that has now taken place. Some will be disappointed that the design selected does not extend across Ormeau Embankment into Ormeau Park (as in Option 10). Nevertheless, the Minister has said that there will be a further public exhibition in early 2015 (although no details have yet been publicised) and possibly a planning application could go in later in 2015. The feasibility study estimates that, with a fair wind, the scheme could be constructed within 30 months of the decision to proceed. If, for the sake of argument, such a decision was made at the end of 2015 the bridge could be completed by mid 2018. This, of course, depends on funding. Initial looks at the Stormont House Agreement made around Christmas 2014 makes any capital investment in the next few years look very shakey indeed. But we should know more about Stormont's finances going forward by the end of January.