Reuniting Planning and Health

Healthy Cities 21st Century

Connswater Community Greenway

Sam Thompson Bridge, Connswater Community Greenway

In 2005 East Belfast Partnership (EBP) recognised the need for a significant intervention in east Belfast that would impact on:

  • The health and general well-being of the people
  • Improvements to the physical environment
  • Community cohesion

The idea of bringing the rivers in east Belfast back into use had been discussed for a number of years and the Connswater Community Greenway (CCG) concept was developed in 2006-07 as it was agreed that a number of the desired outcomes for the area could be achieved through this project. In 2007, CCG received funding of £23.5 million from the Big Lottery Fund’s Living Landmarks programme. It is one of three UK projects (and the only Northern Ireland scheme) to gain funding from this source. Additional funding was received from Belfast City Council (£4.2m) and the Department for Social Development (£3.2m).

The Connswater Community Greenway will create a 9km linear park through east Belfast, following the course of the Connswater, Knock and Loop Rivers, connecting the open and green spaces and cleaning the Connswater River. The Greenway will reconnect communities and it will create vibrant, attractive, safe and accessible parkland for leisure, recreation and community events and activities.

It will provide immediate benefit to the 40,000 people living in the wards adjacent to the river and will deliver benefits from the Castlereagh Hills to Belfast Lough and beyond. It will directly improve the living environment, reinstating a valuable amenity for local people and provide opportunities for improving health and well-being. The Project will act as a catalyst for physical and economic development.

Following two years of severe flooding in east Belfast, flood alleviation works were incorporated into the project in partnership with Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD). Elements of the East Belfast Flood Alleviation Scheme (£11m) will now be developed alongside the CCG project. 1,700 homes will have a significantly reduced risk of flooding from the rivers as a result of this.

Key Physical outputs are:

  • A 9km linear park, a wildlife corridor
  • 26 new or improved bridges and crossings
  • Serving 22 schools and colleges
  • 16kms of foot and cycle paths
  • 5kms of clean rivers
  • 6 tourism and heritage trails
  • A civic square

The project has been divided into two construction phases. Phase 1 works concentrated on Orangefield and Victoria Parks and will be completed September 2015. Phase 2 works will commence Autumn 2015 and will be completed late 2016.

To date the following achievements have been made by the project:

Commmunity engagement

Engagement with the community has been strong since the concept stage of the project. Local community stakeholders were involved in design workshops and have had the opportunity to influence more detailed design in their area. Information sessions and stakeholder forums have kept local community and residents informed about the project. Community activities and events have been important locally to engage with various people and to encourage use of the spaces that are being developed. Through this a supportive and loyal volunteer group has developed.

Improvements to date

  • 3.5km improved/ new paths
  • 5 new/improved bridges and crossings (including the landmark Sam Thompson Bridge)
  • 344 native trees planted
  • 95% engagement with key stakeholder groups
  • 3 tourism 7 heritage trails developed
  • 1 community garden established

Additional investment

  • Queen’s University Belfast, Centre of Excellence successfully received £1m funding to research the CCG project and its impact- Physical Activity and the Rejuvenation of the Connswater (PARC) Study
  • National Lottery- Public Art Programme through the Arts Council NI £48k funding received by EBP for façade art along the CCG route
  • Northern Ireland Tourist Board’s Tourism Development Scheme £285k funding received by EBP to develop a visitor centre for east Belfast


  • Belfast Healthy City Healthier Environments Award 2014 for Avoniel Community Garden (Highly Commended)
  • BURA The Waterways Renaissance Award for Partnership 2009 (Winner)
  • BURA The Waterways Renaissance Award for Strategy & Action Planning 2009 (Runner-up)
  • RTPI/RSPB NI Sustainable Planning Award 2008 (Runner-up)

More information

Connswater Community Greenway