(Mr. R. Black, Director of Neighbourhood Services attended in connection with this item.)
The Members of the Committee considered the following report:
“1.0 Purpose of Report or Summary of Main Issues
1.1 The purpose of this report is to provide Members with a further update on the next steps associated with Phase 5 of the Alleygates Programme.
2.1 The Members of the Committee are asked to recommend that, in accordance with the Council decision of 4th May, the Chief Executive exercise her delegated authority to approve the agreed approach for Phase 5.
3.0 Main Report
3.1 Members will recall that, at the Committee meeting on 19th March, an update on Phase 5 Alleygates was provided and the decision was taken to allocate the £500K capital budget equally across North, South, East and West Belfast.
3.2 Additionally, Members were informed that a framework would be developed to assist Members in prioritising potential gate locations for Alleygates Phase 5.
3.3 Officers have reviewed frameworks used for previous phases of Alleygates and, having taken on board Members feedback, are suggesting the following 6 stage approach:
3.4 Initial Data Analysis
- Crime/ASB Data (PSNI/Council)
- Environmental Crime Data (Council)
- Registered Elected Member requests for Alleygates (Council)
- Customer requests for Alleygates (Council)
- Site Suitability for alleygates (including meeting definition of alleyway as per legislation as can’t close off public footpaths)
3.5 The analysis will produce an ‘initial priority list’ of possible alleygate locations for future Committee consideration on an area basis (North, South, East and West). Alleygate locations ranking of high need in more than one of the categories above will likely be ranked higher as these are indicators of demonstrating stronger need/suitability.
Elected Member Assessment
3.6 Recognising that statistical data does not always present the fullest and most accurate analysis of need, formal Elected Member input will be sought via pro forma to enrich the data analysis.
3.7 The pro forma will include items such as:
- Member knowledge of history of crime, ASB, environmental crime and gate effectiveness
- Overview of any community consultation/feedback completed by Members
- Identification of any other locations, assessed against suitability criteria
Agreed Long List
3.8 The initial data analysis and formal Elected Member assessment will be combined, producing a citywide ‘long list’ (presented on an area basis) and this will be presented to Strategic Policy and Resources Committee for formal consideration.
3.9 Following agreement of the citywide ‘long list’, possible gate locations for each area will be considered by the appropriate Area Working Group. The Area Working Group will be asked to refine that list to an agreed priority short list based on available data and budget (£125K per area).
3.10 Area Working Groups will also be asked to consider agreeing a reserve list (in priority order) of possible gate locations as based on previous experience. This is because there are a range of reasons (community objection, further site suitability issues, statutory objection) which sometimes prevent alleygates from proceeding at later stages.
Final Gate Locations Agreed
3.11 The Strategic Policy and Resources Committee will then consider the recommended priority short list and priority reserve list from each Area Working Group for possible alleygates.
Legal Consultation and Gate Installation
3.12 Officers will commence the formal legal statutory and community consultation required under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act (NI) 2011. Members will recall this is an extensive process and will take several months to complete before Alleygates can be ordered/installed.
3.13 Members will be aware of the commitment by the Department for Infrastructure Minister to support via the Blue Green Infrastructure fund a regional Alleyway Transformation Programme. The overall value of the monies to support the programme has not been finalised, but it is likely to be in the region of £1m - £2m for the whole of Northern Ireland. Additionally, there has been no indication of how the funding will be allocated across the region.
3.14 Given the important link between Alleygates Phase 5 and the Alleyway Transformation work, it is proposed the above framework should be used to assist Members in making decisions at the appropriate point in the future on which alleyways may be supported as part of a Belfast Alleyway Transformation Programme. I.e. Alleyways identified in the final citywide ‘long list’ not taken forward by Elected Members for Phase 5 Alleygates would be specifically brought forward for consideration under Alleyway Transformation.
3.15 Members should note that initial indications are that the funding will only support equipment purchase (and not associated capacity building), so it will be important to identify alleyways that have a strong existing community commitment to their sustainability and/or ensure potential locations receive capacity support from the Council.
3.16 Officers will be engaging with DfI in the coming months to develop a potential delivery model for Alleyway Transformation for Belfast and will bring that forward for Members consideration in due course.
Financial and Resource Implications
Financial implications are detailed in the body of the report.
Equality, Good Relations Implications and Rural Needs Assessment
An Equality Screening will need to be completed on Alleygates Phase 5 in due course.”
During discussion, a Member referred to the initial indications that the funding from the Department for Infrastructure for the Alleyway Transformation Programme could only be used to support equipment purchase. He explained that many alleyways required significant additional work, such as resurfacing and the removal of vegetation, to transform them fully and stated that the Council should seek to ensure that the cost of that work would also be met. He referred also to the need to request the Department for Infrastructure to adopt those alleyways which would be transformed under the Programme and which were currently unadopted, to allow them to be effectively maintained and serviced.
In response, the Director of Neighbourhood Services informed the Member that Council officers were continuing to engage with the Department for Infrastructure on the funding parameters for the Alleyway Transformation Programme and to identify other sources of funding to ensure that the needs of local communities were fully realised. He referred to a report which had on 8th December, 2020, been presented to the People and Communities Committee which had included information on adopted/unadopted alleyways, in preparation for the implementation of the Transformation Programme and confirmed that discussions had taken place with the Department for Infrastructure and subsequently with the Council’s Legal Services Section on the options which were potentially available. The aforementioned report would, he added, be circulated to the Members of the Committee for information and would form the basis for future discussions on alleygating and the Alleyway Transformation Programme.
After discussion, the Members of the Committee agreed to recommend that, in accordance with the Council decision of 4th May, the Chief Executive exercise her delegated authority to approve the proposed approach for the implementation of Phase 5 of the alleygating programme, as set out within the report.