Page last updated at 17:00 GMT, Thursday, 15 May 2008 18:00 UK

UVF garden now a kids' playground

Natalia Finn
Natalia Finn is one of the first children to have a go on the new equipment

A memorial garden which glorified loyalist paramilitaries has been transformed into a new playpark and multi-sports area for children in a deprived area of Belfast.

The 90,000 project in Nubia Street, off the Donegall Road in the Village area of the city, has been built on the site of a UVF memorial garden.

Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie said it has "brought a renewed sense of community identity and pride".

The park was opened just a day after the government said that it now recognised the UVF's ceasefire.

Last May, the UVF said it was assuming "a non-military civilianised role".

Ms Ritchie said the new park had "regenerated a rundown area into an attractive space for the local community".

18-month-old Zakk Surgenor with his grandfather councillor Bob Stoker
18-month-old Zakk Surgenor with his grandfather, Councillor Bob Stoker
Children from local primary schools turned up for the grand opening where they were given a chance to roadtest the new equipment.

The project was developed over the last two years by the Greater Village Regeneration Trust and local people, in conjunction with Belfast City Council and the Department of Social Development.

Councillor Bob Stoker said it was an example of how communities were being encouraged to take ownership of and responsibility for their local parks.

Mr Stoker, who chairs the council's parks and leisure committee, said he hoped the new facility would "act as a catalyst for more regeneration work within the neighbourhood".

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