Speech to Sydenham Community Partnership

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Ladies and Gentlemen I would like to thank you for the invitation to speak today.  As an elected representative the regeneration of East Belfast is at the top of my priorities and I hope to see East Belfast as the most desirable place to live and work in Northern Ireland.

Sydenham area is a very important part of East Belfast and Belfast and down through the years the people of Sydenham have played an important and significant part in the industry, commerce, sporting and literary achievement of Belfast with many notable people having lived in the district and contributed to the history of this part of our city. 

Sydenham area has suffered greatly under years of direct rule and has only recently been designated by the Department of Social Development as an area of risk.  This is deeply worrying for myself and no doubt all who live in the area. However, now is the time for action, the time to tackle the problems?   There is a real need for a Community Partnership approach throughout the whole of the city and especially within the Sydenham area. And I believe it will prove to be a vital tool in the development of the area.  It will help to bring the community together and give more control and coordination to people from the area to shape the future development of the Sydenham. It will also provide a way for people from the community to voice their aspirations and ideas for the regeneration of the area. 

There are many key issues which need to be tackled and the Community Partnership will have a key role in helping to overcome the challenges these key issues pose.   One of the key issues which must be dealt with is that there are a lower percentage of people, than the national average and Belfast East average, from the Sydenham area obtaining higher level education qualifications.   And we are very fortunate in having two excellent schools on our doorstep I refer of course to Ashfield Boys and Girls schools. This is an issue which needs to be resolved, with more importance being placed upon children at primary level and those who are preparing for their GCSE and A Level exams of the advantages of education.  

The report has identified the higher level of older persons within Sydenham and indeed the Victoria electoral ward has the highest levels of older persons in Belfast. The needs of this important group of people need to be addressed, their hopes and aspirations need to be delivered and the contribution they can make to the betterment of the area recognised. It is also important to note that the Community Partnership has the support of Belfast City Council, and BCC plan on aiding them in a number of key areas, these have also been outlined in the Development Plan, and as a Councillor for the area I will help influence the council to give all its support to the partnership. 

This is only the beginning of the development of Sydenham. It is vital that Sydenham is developed into an area which will not only make the residents proud to live here but will also make it a desirable place for others to increasingly want to come to live. If we genuinely want the problems tackled then The Community Partnership needs the support of the whole community to aid them in their quest to have the report implemented. Without the support of the community this project cannot succeed.  

In closing I would thank Michael Briggs, Chris and all the voluntary groups who gave their time to help make this report into the valuable document that it is.  Thanks are also due to the Department of Social Development and their staff for their financial support and guidance and last but not least the staff of EBCDA.  I thank you once again for the invitation to speak here today and would like to pledge my support to this project.