Image: Residents deeply concerned over ‘lack of consultation’ on plans to build 3g pitch at Falls Park in west Belfast
The LoveFallsPark group has called Monday night’s decision (November 3) by Belfast City Council to proceed with plans for a 3g pitch in the Falls Park as “ominous”.
“We have supplied the council and councillors with incontrovertible evidence that that there has been no public consultation on the proposal to build a 3G pitch at the location proposed in the Falls Park.
This lack of consultation on was publicly acknowledged by the Director of Parks and Leisure Andrew Hassard at a public meeting on September 23.
At Monday night’s council meeting it was claimed that “considerable consultation” had already taken place on a 3g pitch for the Falls Park.
Spokesman Flair Campbell from LoveFallsPark said: “We want the evidence to be publicly produced that consultation has taken place on proposals for a 3g pitch in the park.”
Councillors at a Parks and Leisure Committee meeting on October 17 said that the hundreds of letters they received in favour of the proposal helped them greatly in reaching a decision. At least one GAA club had a template letter on its website encouraging members and supporters to print it off and send it in to the council. In the interests of transparency, the council and councillors now need to tell the public where these letters came from, whether they were in fact mainly from sporting organisations and most importantly, what weight was attached to this type of lobby in the decision-making process.
The LoveFallsPark survey, which was carried out with 207 residents over a five-day period, found that 94 per cent of people surveyed had not been consulted. It provided an analysis of respondents’ profile, by gender, age, park usage and geographical location and everybody was surveyed on a random individual basis. What weight was attached to the results of this survey in the decision-making process?
Mr Campbell said: “When we consulted people they made lots of suggestions around possible alternatives to the Falls Park for the location of a 3G pitch, so the precious Falls Park resource could be protected for the people of west Belfast while at the same time enabling a new sports facility to be built. We are calling on the council to go back and properly consider such alternatives.”
He added that this decision “ignores the fundamental requirements of council to adhere to its own equality duties and glides over councillors’ duty to uphold section 75 and to hold council to account.
“In less than six months the new super Belfast City Council is going to be given new statutory powers around community planning.
“These powers will include a duty to consult directly with communities. What has happened in this case, with decisions being made behind closed doors, does nothing to inspire confidence in the community that the council will use these powers in a democratic and accountable way.”
“We urged the council to re-examine this decision, to recognise the fundamentally flawed decision-making process and to take urgent steps to rectify it”