SOUTH Belfast SDLP Councillors Gary McKeown and Séamas de Faoite have proposed a plan to include a new alleygating scheme as part of the city’s recovery.

The plan aims to support neighbourhoods who have converted their entries to community spaces during Covid-19.

At Tuesday night’s monthly meeting of Belfast City Council, two local residents addressed councillors on the need for alleygates to protect areas they had transformed over the lockdown.

Knockbreda resident Dino Cafolla and Ormeau resident Elizabeth Pantridge explained how they had transformed their respective areas during lockdown.

Both were hotspots for crime and anti-social behaviour which have now been cleaned up for use of the community.

Both residents called for alleygates to be installed to ensure the area remains clean and secure for their communities.

Councillor McKeown said: “The coronavirus pandemic has forced us all to re-evaluate how we live, and we have seen communities across the city turn previously neglected entries into vibrant spaces where residents can spend time safely, get to know their neighbours and brighten their area.

These spaces have effectively become pocket parks – sustainable, cared-for stretches of ground that have been used for growing flowers and vegetables, creating art, and playing music. This has benefitted people's mental and physical wellbeing at a time of great uncertainty.

“However, these fantastic community-driven initiatives need protected and nurtured, so council needs to throw its support behind these communities by giving them the security they need to continue to thrive and develop, and inspire other neighbourhoods to do the same. Alleygates would help ensure this.”

Councillor de Faoite added: “Residents across the city have decided that change can’t wait anymore for gates. They’ve staked out their alleys as community spaces that can be used and enjoyed by all the residents.

Local government should be working to reward neighbourhoods who are proactively changing their area for the better as part of the recovery. Belfast City Council can demonstrate it is listening to the needs and concerns of those residents and rebuild their confidence as we build the new era.”

The SDLP proposal will be brought forward for discussion at the People and Communities Committee later this month.