Page last updated at 08:52 GMT, Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Ambitious park plan loses bridge

Site of planned park
The park is to be built on a former landfill site

Belfast City Council has lost out on EU money to help build a 7m M2 motorway footbridge to its planned Giant's Park.

The council applied to the European Union's Peace 3 programme for 5.8m but this was turned down.

The park is to be built on a former landfill site on the northern shore of Belfast Lough.

Councillors hope the park could become the site of a new stadium and sports village developed by two soccer clubs, Crusaders and Newington.

The scheme proposed by the clubs includes a 4,200-seater stadium, along with other pitches for a variety of sports, players accommodation, a hotel and cinema and other commercial elements.

'Shared space'

Mark Langhammer of Crusaders FC's development team said: "I think our proposal is both commercially viable and it meets the community's needs in terms of shared space.

Footbridge plans
An artist's impression of the footbridge which lost out on funding
"We hope to be back to the council with firmed-up proposals and a governance structure within four to six weeks."

Newington FC manager Eamon McCarthy said the site was ideally located for his club's catchment area in north Belfast.

"We've lost our current pitch and we've got 13 teams with a lot of kids involved, so if we don't get these facilities the club could go to the wall," he said.

In 2007, the Giant's Park project missed out on 25m in funding when the National Lottery's Living Landmarks scheme instead backed the Connswater Community Greenway in east Belfast.

DUP councillor Nelson McCausland said he was disappointed that the council had lost out on funding for its footbridge plan but the soccer clubs would be a great anchor tenant for the park.

"The council has set aside 11m for infrastructure work, road access and other services onto the site," he said.

"This is a a great economic development opportunity, not just for north Belfast but for the entire city."

Alban Maginness of the SDLP said: "It's a wonderfully balanced cross-community scheme which involves both amateur and professional football, and it will advance the interests of sport in Belfast as a whole."

UUP councillor Jim Rodgers said: "I know within the parks and leisure committee there's a great deal of support for us doing something on the north foreshore to make it a shared space for everyone in the city and the country."

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