15 minute cities. Exactly who is being controlled?

man walking on street

15 minute cities.  Within 15 minutes’ walk you will find all your amenities. Work.  Recreation.  Shopping.  School.  Places of worship. Must surely be government oppression to take our freedom.  #amiright? #areyouwhat? If you know anything about me, you know I don’t do conspiracy theories. What I do is turn things on their head. Find a paper street map of your town or city (not village.  Villages are a different issue.) Get a pair of compasses out.  Old school.  Set them …

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The past, present and future of cross-border rail

Enterprise crossing Craigmore Viaduct near Bessbrook

Recently, to great fanfare, the Irish government announced an €800m funding package in support of its Shared Island strategy aimed at funding public spending on projects in Northern Ireland. The lion’s share of the spend is on the A5 project, and that, together with Casement, is where most of the media attention went. However, there is also an allocation aimed at increasing the frequency of cross border rail services. Before looking at this in detail we should talk a little …

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The Hope of Possibility

My Dad died two days before Christmas. I was on my way up to see him when I got a missed call and a text from my brother telling me he’d passed away. He had pancreatic cancer. The time between diagnosis and death is often short. Before you’ve had time to wrap your head around the fact that your loved one is ill, they are gone.  The shock of the loss is as sharp and painful as the grief. How …

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The end of free GP access in Northern Ireland is in sight

A couple of years back, I was chatting to a friend of a friend who is a GP. Like, I suspect, most of us, I had (and still have) a fairly limited understanding of the nuts and bolts of how healthcare is actually provided in Northern Ireland, and he spent a bit of time explaining it to me. I was quite surprised to discover, for example, that GP surgeries are actually private businesses. They’re almost exclusively organised as partnerships, a …

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Fix climate change and congestion with better buses

A recent job change, for me, led to a minor conundrum associated with the loss of a free city centre parking space. I could either continue to drive to work and pay for all day parking (£7 is the lowest price I’m aware of) or I could use the bus. I opted for the bus.  The Antrim Road area, where I live, is quite well served by the Metro 1 route. Using the “Belfast Bus Tracker” third party app (App …

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The other waiting list crisis

When waiting lists are discussed and shouted about in Northern Ireland, we are usually talking about our disintegrating healthcare system. But there is a second waiting list crisis – that of households seeking social housing. As at March of last year, there were 44,426 applicants on the social housing waiting list. Of these, over 10,000 were regarded as homeless and more than 31,000 were in housing stress. Nor is the situation improving. There was a 20% jump in applicants for …

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Equalising rail fares – balancing the books but at what cost?

Once upon a long ago – I think way back in the 1990s – I looked at the fares from Belfast Central to every station on the network.  In those days, the Great Northern branch line from Knockmore to Antrim was still open, and I found a few surprises. Chiefly, that Bangor, 13 miles from Belfast Central, had the same fare as Whitehead (15 miles away) and Crumlin (a lot further).  Granted, Crumlin had an unusual fare because the fare …

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A tale of one city and two regeneration sites

Derry is a frustrated city. Too often promises of improvement either come to nothing, or happen too slowly. Anyone who doubts this can consider the regeneration of two major development sites – Ebrington and Fort George. One is now partially occupied, the other largely vacant. This is two decades after the fanfare of their transfer from the Ministry of Defence for the benefit of the city. The former Ebrington Barracks, also known at one time as HMS Sea Eagle, were …

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Once more unto the data breach…

worm's eye-view photography of ceiling

PSNI and other NI public bodies face data breaches due to human errors. ICO investigates and warns. Ciaran Ward urges better data protection.

Travel Concession Consultation…

David Jamison is from Belfast. He has recently retired and to use his own words, now with time on his hands to think and write about things he probably should have thought more about years ago. Public Transport in all its various forms seems to be getting a lot of attention at the moment. The new Belfast Grand Central Station is proceeding a pace. Cycle routes have got a mention. Train routes and Connectivity to the NW. Then Bus Passes …

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Connecting the North West

Derry and Donegal are not only marginalised by their geographic position on the periphery of the island of Ireland, but they are also very badly served by the transport infrastructure. They are not alone in this: there are similar complaints from Sligo, Fermanagh and elsewhere in the West. After a long campaign, parts of the A6 road between Derry and Belfast have been upgraded – though it is still not a dual carriageway between Dungiven and Castledawson. It was back …

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All Island Rail Review has been published – but will it hit the buffers?

Regional and rural interventions rail map from All Island Rail Review

Yes, I’m cynical.  You can’t entirely blame me. There is some great stuff in the All-Island Rail Review, published on Tuesday, including some blue sky thinking.  The summary, with my annotations, is below. Short term and decarbonisation Electrify remainder of Belfast-Dublin line, Belfast-Bangor, Dublin-Cork/Galway/Limerick/Waterford (both companies were already working on plans to abolish diesel traction, but NIR I think also intends to electrify the Larne, Portrush and Derry/Londonderry (hereafter referred to as Derry) lines) Increase line speeed to 100mph (currently …

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Wind turbines are a marvel of engineering…

a group of wind turbines in the ocean

I came across these videos via Reddit from local man Stephen (Frankie) Masterson. Stephen works on offshore wind farms and has done a video tour of the inside of an offshore turbine. From the outside, you don’t imagine much going on, but when you see the inside, you appreciate the engineering that goes into these massive structures. @frankie.1888 This tower is no longer owned or operated by Siemens #greenenergy #wind #offshore #windpower #windturbine ♬ original sound – Stephen (Frankie) Masterson …

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Opportunity is where you find it? Demystifying geothermal opportunities and opportunity-making steps…

C:\Users\Mark Palmer\Downloads\image_7865bda0-3b35-4bd2-bd6d-2ae085c9176120230520_040054.jpg

As Queen’s University prepares to open its new geothermal-heated Business School building, Mark Palmer, Joseph Ireland (QUB) and Orla Hanna (DWF Law) consider if the opening of a geothermal-heated Business School marks a new chapter for sustainable energy in the North. The leafy hillside and pristine gardens of Riddel Hall at Stranmillis in south Belfast reveal Queen’s University new Business School building. Nested within a crescent-shaped cluster of woodlands is the new red-bricked building which, at first glance, gives away …

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Hill St Blues – The ongoing debate over car restrictions…

In the run up to the local elections, John Manley’s Irish News article on Hill St. in Belfast added more fuel to an ongoing debate over car restrictions. But why does a tiny cobbled back street in Belfast warrant a quarter page in one of NI’s biggest daily newspapers and continue to generate a running commentary on other media outlets? Hill St. is located at the back of St Anne’s Cathedral in the old print district – and runs through …

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The politics of parking..

top view photo of red and blue convertibles on asphalt road

Heading into the local elections in Northern Ireland, we’ll hear about health, the climate crisis, the housing crisis, anti-social behaviour, dereliction etc. We’ll hear very little about parking. But we should, because it affects all of us and contributes directly to those issues. The word “parking” has its roots in Washington DC. In 1871, the Washington Parking Commission was established – not to park cars as they didn’t exist then – but to to plant trees, bringing shade, birdsong and …

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The Irish government will pay a heavy price for housing failures…

black car on road during sunset

As a recent poll showed, Fine Gael lost the room when it ended the eviction ban. In fact, it lost the whole house. It bet the mortgage on private landlords re-entering the market if the eviction ban was lifted. In reality, private landlords can’t exit the market quickly enough when the opportunity comes. There is more money to be made in short-term lets through Airbnb or selling into the swollen property market. The Government has a fundamental responsibility to provide …

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Previewing the ninth annual Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas and Politics #imaginebelfast

Imagine festival 202

The Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas and Politics is seeking to provide ‘brain food’ to all and sundry over seven days in March. The packed programme is a veritable feast of ‘ideas for a better world’. Now in its ninth year, the festival has over 130 in-person and online events, and the majority are free. While politics is often to the fore, politicians themselves aren’t usually platformed at the non-partisan festival’s events. But this year, one event will be exploring …

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House prices still rising in Northern Ireland…

white and red wooden house miniature on brown table

Despite the recent hikes in interest rates and the general uncertainty around the economy, house prices are still rising. From Margeret Canning in the BelTel: Dr Michael McCord, reader in real estate valuation at UU, said: “The housing market, while showing a softening in price growth over the course of 2022, continues to show resilience with no price correction evident despite the rather turbid economic setting, the continued cost of living crisis and Bank of England base rate increases. “There …

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Early reversal of previous Minister’s policy as fares rise scheduled

Enterprise crossing Craigmore Viaduct near Bessbrook

It shouldn’t actually surprise us in the slightest, and for once I can’t entirely blame the DUP’s collapse of the Assembly. On 25th October, John O’Dowd announced as Infrastructure Minister that Translink fares would “remain frozen for another year”, but today it was announced that they would rise by an average of 7% from 6 March. The Secretary of State made a statement to the House of Commons on 24 November 2022 saying he recognised “that steps will also need …

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