Pictured: A graphical rendering of the planned Northside development and above it the Sunflower pub as pictured on Geograph.ie
Another day, another regeneration project, rolled out by the great and the good for the benefit of the mass unwashed. Peg Leeson grabs her quill and takes a look.
The recent launch of the Belfast Northside regeneration project has been heralded in the local meedja as providing much need accommodation for hordes of University of Ulster students set to flood the area as the institution moves campus to the big smoke.
And, it’s true student accommodation is badly served in a city where the center is an underpopulated ghost town. Lack of access to affordable, good standard, housing is effecting everyone from young families to young professionals and especially the working poor. Arguable it’s at the core of much of the sectarianism and racism that plagues this little spot on earth’s arse.
The issue here isn’t the provision of housing but rather then tired old model of private developers providing it. We’re told that “Northside Regeneration is a consortium led by local property developer Kevin McKay, supported by Balfour Beatty, an infrastructural development company.”
Snore we’ve heard this a thousand times before. There is no consideration for the communities that already live there. It’s not just about living there. A number of pubs and clubs are the back bone of the city’s cultural and Queer quarters.
You’ve got to ask in this great master plan what is going to happen to Maverick or the Sunflower pub? In a jurisdiction already plagued by a puritanical vision of chaste opening hours how will our last great bastion of later night clubbing the Kermlin weather sound pollution lobbies?
We all know that those that have restricted our late night funtimes have a bigger issue still with people of the same gender who kiss each other.
The Sunflower has already came under pressure from the Department of Regional Development – there’s that word again! – to remove the security cage that has became an iconic element of its facade. Security cages were erected to restrict access to the pub interior, so badmen (not the grimey type) with guns couldn’t come in and shoot the place up. That was the Troubles folks.
The one outside the Sunflower is one of the last remaining examples, it’s painted green and has hanging baskets over it. But it is still a reminder of how brutal our recent past was and where we’ve came from, and what we should never forget. For the DRD it was something that might scare the visitors or stop them moving about while they shopped.
It’s unclear how the Sunflower will be effected by this regeneration. One glaring failing is that the security cage is not a protected structure and therefore could be removed.
It could easily be erased along with the various other elements, socially and culturally, that make this area of Belfast what it is.