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Interface communities back plans for shared community facility

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The majority of residents living near a cluster of interface sites would back plans to develop a shared community facility on a derelict factory site in West Belfast, a new survey today revealed.

The Shared Community Survey, developed by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive for the Black Mountain Shared Space Project (BMSSP), sought the views of 341 people based in the Springmartin/Highfield, Springfield/Moyard and Slibh Dubh areas. The project has been working in close partnership with NIHE, Belfast City Council and the International Fund for Ireland to explore new options to transform the sites.

More than three-quarters of survey respondents said they were in favour of funding being sought for a new shared facility on the seven-acre former Finlay’s site with most stating a preference for it to deliver health and wellbeing initiatives, youth employment programmes, social enterprise projects and family support services.

The findings were unveiled at Belfast City Hall during a showcase for the BMSSP, which has used support from the International Fund for Ireland to build community confidence and support for the transformation of a number of interface sites in the area. Last year, the project assisted in the removal of security gates on Springmartin Road and the reimaging of Peace Walls in Sliabh Dubh.

Billy Gamble, International Fund for Ireland Board Member said:
“Black Mountain Shared Space has built a steady momentum and has created new confidence within both communities for positive change. The expressions of support for a new shared facility confirm the level of trust that the project has helped secure and the willingness of the communities to work together to move forward.

“Black Mountain and other Interface communities that have engaged with the IFI have demonstrated courage to transform their neighbourhoods. Interface communities are willing to take brave steps to build a new and shared future, but they need greater support from government departments and other funders in order to make more progress.”

Seamus Corr, Manager of Black Mountain Shared Space Project, said:
“The findings of the Shared Community Survey are hugely encouraging and show communities are willing to work together to stimulate socio-economic and physical regeneration activity in the Black Mountain area. We’re buoyed by the level of support for the project to move forward for a derelict and contested space to be revitalised for mutual community gain.

“We know that interfaces can only be removed or transformed when interface communities are content for that to happen. The security concerns of residents must be satisfied but there must also be some benefit to the community. Through the International Fund for Ireland’s Peace Walls Programme, we’ve been successful in opening important new discussions around several interface sites and have delivered a number of significant physical changes.”

Mr Corr also paid tribute to the support provided from NIHE, Belfast City Council and the International Fund for Ireland.

Black Mountain Shared Space Project secured funding through the International Fund for Ireland’s Peace Walls Programme in 2013 and Peace Impact Programme in 2014. The latter supports the development of new local young leaders on a Youth Apprenticeship Scheme and engages older youth on a programme of activities and community building initiates to enhance social inclusion, civic participation and employability.