Residents in a notorious student heartland have given their views on a report charting the area’s problems saying they hope it will bring solutions to their troubles.
A workshop looking at a ‘baseline’ copy of the Holyland and Wider University Area Strategic Study took place last Tuesday (February 7) at the City Church in University Avenue. Attended by members of the Holyland Regeneration Association (HRA), it was addressed by consultants Buchanan, who are carrying out the work on the Belfast City Council-commissioned report, which was established last year to look at the anti-social behaviour problems the area suffers.
Ray Farley of the HRA said although no recommendations have yet been made from the report, it was good for residents to hear confirmation of long-held beliefs.
“It discusses things such as overcrowding, the rise in anti-social behaviour and the effective abandonment of the area when it comes to laws such as on-street drinking and too many cars being parked here. We knew these things anyway but it’s nice to have the figures behind them now as well. Due to the report we now have a basis in which to say there are too many students in the Holyland and also that the universities do not contribute enough to student housing, rather they rely on the public sector for it.”
Ray said residents were informed the finished report, complete with recommendations, should be available for public view by St Patrick’s Day, one of the most infamous dates on the calendar in the Holyland.
“We were first given snippets of it before Christmas and councillors have had the baseline copy for a while as well. So they are being very thorough in looking at all the problems and hopefully all the solutions as well before releasing it properly.
“Although St Patrick’s Day is rapidly approaching, we feel this is the correct thing to do because the amount of money being spent on the study and the fact we want to be sure everything is done correctly to try and end the problems we are experiencing.”
Ray said the key was now having the forthcoming recommendations “properly delivered”.
“It’s now down to somebody taking the lead in this. Once Belfast City Council have the full report we don’t want it gathering dust. It will hopefully have a lot of actions we want coming out of it.
“In an ideal world, the council will be given the tools to drive it forward themselves. That makes the most sense from our point of view. If they aren’t and it goes to an Assembly department, another minister could come in there at any time and have a different agenda. So give Belfast City Council the powers they need and allow them to carry out what needs to happen to end the problems here.”