Seedbombing at Mackies: Pauline O'Flynn, GROW NI; Morhaf Sidahmed, Campaigner; Sean Brady, PPR; Marissa McMahon, Take Back the City; Emma Cassidy, PILS and Sean Kane, Campaigner. www.nlb.ie

Citizens of Belfast Gather to Demand a Better Future

More than 200 citizens of Belfast and representatives of 40 architect firms from four continents met at a two day event to imagine a what the first all inclusive community in Belfast might look like

Take Back The City activists and campaigners are calling on the government to act now to secure a brighter future for people immediately impacted by the stalemate surrounding the controversial Mackies site which could be redeveloped to help alleviate the current housing crisis in our city.

At a two day event, hosted by human rights organisation Participation and the Practice of Rights (PPR) which exists to support families campaigning for better housing provision, local people met with international architects who shared their vision for designing a site which will transform the biggest publicly owned piece of land in Belfast.

Speaking about the success of the event, Marissa McMahon of Participation and the Practice of Rights, said: “We are overwhelmed by the response we’ve received from international architects who have entered a design competition showcasing their vision for creating a sustainable and inclusive community here on the Mackies site. It’s frustrating though that while architects from four continents can understand what we are trying to do here, our own government does not seem to. That’s why we are calling on the government to release the public land owned by the housing department which is located on an interface scarred by peace walls between north and west Belfast, as they and Belfast City Council have the power to deliver a first of its kind prototype and sustainable neighbourhood in the heart of Belfast.”

Families from both sides of the interface have been transforming small patches of land into green growing spaces, challenging Belfast City Council’s planning committee in court and mobilising experts in design, architecture, permaculture and planning to deliver the ideas that they say are absent from all levels of local decision making.

Marissa added: “We understand that Belfast City Council is meeting again next week to discuss the Mackies site for the third time, having first ruled their decision unlawful and secondly unfair, and yet our invitations to the Ministers for Communities and Infrastructure, Chief Executives of Belfast City Council and Invest NI, leaders of all political parties and local representatives to visit one of the poorest areas in our city and engage with us on the solutions being designed have been ignored.”

‘’What we’ve learned the hard way, over more than a decade of supporting families who need a home, is that the people in power have very little capacity to embrace new ideas without a bit of help. Big, established developers have more access to politicians than struggling families and we want to change that dynamic. We have invited the most powerful decision makers to visit this massive site to see what has been achieved by committed families working in partnership with international experts in their fields.

‘’The climate, cost of living and housing crises aren’t going to get better with more business as usual. That’s why we are calling for the government to stand up now and listen to what we have to say and make our hopes for the future a reality.”

For more information on the design competition, please visit: https://www.takebackthecity.ie/news/urban-design-competition.

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