Posted on Monday 24 March 2014 by Ulster Business

Urban Villages launch

Robinson and McGuinness announce Colin and Lower Newtownards Road as Urban Villages.

First Minister the Rt Hon Peter D. Robinson MLA and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MLA have announced Colin and Lower Newtownards Road as the first two Urban Villages.

The Together: Building a United Community Strategy published in May 2013, outlined that four Urban Villages would be established to create and stabilise change within communities.

The First Minister, Peter Robinson said: “The ‘Together: Building a United Community’ Strategy, published in May 2013, reflects the Executive’s commitment to improving good relations and to build a united, shared and reconciled society.

“These two urban villages offer the community the opportunity to utilise innovative and visionary proposals to make real and lasting change in areas that have seen years of decline, market failure and low social capital.

“The urban villages’ vision is to provide these areas with a new community heart through careful use of existing capital and by pioneering improvements to the look and feel of the area.

“Feedback from the community is consistent in its message to Government that regeneration, with residents at the heart of decision making, is a key element of what is needed to build a sustainable and safe community.”

The deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: “The Colin and Lower Newtownards Road urban village regeneration projects offer the residents a unique opportunity to influence the look of their areas and build the social capital and local amenities.

“The development of the urban villages will bring the local community together to work on enhancing their built environment to deliver for all residents. We want to see these areas transformed so the community is reinvigorated with a sense of pride in where they live and work.

“Stronger good relations, through working together towards a common purpose, will build the sort of community we wish to see. One that is united in building a better future for all the people who live, work and socialise in the area.”

Colin has been chosen as an Urban Village because of the specific challenges it faces as a large urban area with a high population roughly 26,000, which suffers from a distinct lack of social infrastructure.

Rose Mary Stalker, Chair of Colin Neighbourhood Partnership said: “We welcome plans by the Executive to invest in the Colin area as an Urban Village Regeneration Project.

“This project has a strong focus on the needs of the most deprived communities and we are excited by the genuine potential to improve the quality of life and wellbeing by providing access to health, education, recreation and transport and to do so in way that provides jobs and creates opportunity for the Colin community to thrive.”

The Lower Newtownards Road has been chosen as an Urban Village as it is a recognised area of high urban deprivation and decay. It is an area impacted by dereliction and cross-community challenges, and it is issues such as these that the Urban Village vision is designed to assist.

The Rev Mervyn Gibson, Chair of East Belfast Partnership said: “This is great news for East Belfast and will make a positive impact in the lives of individuals and to the community as a whole.

“We look forward to developing and delivering this exciting concept with all interested parties.”

The Department for Social Development will now start the work to have each area designated a development zone and create project Boards to coordinate and oversee the planning, design and delivery of all aspects of the urban villages.

The Department for Social Development will prepare the resourcing plans once each Urban Village Development Board has completed its master plan for the area.

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