A Development Strategy for East Bank, Belfast

8 September 1999 | blog, cities, frameworks, neighbourhood, place making, strategy

East Bank River Character
Working with EDAW on their framework agreement with the Laganside Corporation, we were asked to produce a A Development Strategy for East Bank, Belfast area comprising the Howden Sirocco Works, Short Strand, Bridge End and Middlepath Street and the entire waterfront of the East Bank. The study area is located east of Belfast city centre and is within the east of the Laganside Corporation designated area. The study area comprises 43 acre/17.5ha with a long 865 metre frontage on the River Lagan. The study area includes two component parts namely:

East Belfast Development Corridor
The Middlepath Street/Bridge End Corridor stretches eastwards from the Lagan Weir to the Sydenham Bypass creating a sizeable development area (27 acres/11ha) in a mix of uses and multiple ownership. The Corridor is of strategic development importance because of its proximity to the city centre and major transport routes.

Howden Sirocco Site
The now vacant site occupies 16 acres/6.4 ha and is dominated by a large, modern factory building at Bridge End with a range of mainly red brick buildings along the Short Strand frontage.

The area has significant development potential based on its proximity to the city centre and the excellent strategic road connections and good public transport provision. There are also a large number of vacant and underused sites, with Howden Sirocco (16 acres/6.4 ha) being the most significant. East Lagan Riverside provides a very exciting range of opportunities and will be a significant focus of development activity over the next six years. The aspiration is for the area to become a distinctive business and residential quarter, marking a significant contribution to the economy of Belfast.

Currently the area lacks a strong cohesive urban character. This is due largely to the impact of traffic, road corridors and the lack of street architecture and buildings which would help to define space, create enclosure and provide uses which would enliven the street scene. Recent housing developments at Queen’s Bridge have started to alleviate this situation. A more metropolitan scale for future development of the East Lagan Riverside will be essential.

The main drivers of the preferred development strategy for East Lagan Riverside that aims to unlock this significant development potential are:

  • rationalising the road system
  • assembling a range of development sites
  • restructuring the public realm
  • improving streetscape
  • enhancing the approaches to the Odyssey and Queen’s Island
  • adding value through heritage
  • creating a mix of uses bringing vitality and economic growth
  • achieving integration and linkage

The proposed development strategy for the East Lagan Riverside area will not only secure the physical regeneration of the area but will also bring substantial benefits to the wider East Belfast area in terms of jobs and strengthened economy. The development strategy also introduces a new connection between the M3 off-slips and Short Strand. This reduces the level of traffic using the Middlepath Street to Bridge End loop and therefore reduces the level of traffic at the exit of the Sydenham by-pass off-slip. As a result consideration can be given to the removal of the Bridge End flyover combined with improvements to the existing Bridge End off-slip.

The entrance to the Odyssey site at Sydenham Road has also been re-thought and it is possible that a new boulevard can be constructed from Bridge End into the Odyssey site. The final arrangement will be the subject of further work, but it is anticipated that a new east square can be created at the end of the Queen Elizabeth Bridge. The redevelopment of the Sirocco site offers the potential of introducing a new street layout with a number of principal streets providing access to new development opportunities.

Implementation Principles

The strategy will lay the foundations for the East Lagan Riverside area’s economic future and iven the fundamental importance of the regeneration of East Lagan Riverside, we believe that implementation must be characterised by:

  • a long-term commitment to the aspirations, objectives and development principles in the strategy
  • a clear commitment to the involvement of the private sector in terms of investment development and implementation
  • an emphasis on a strategic and area approach to regeneration of the East Lagan Riverside rather than an incremental and piecemeal approach to individual sites
  • to promote a mixed use and integrated approach to the regeneration of the area that includes business development, skills and access, community development, housing and transportation programmes as well as property development and environmental improvements
  • to strengthen and deepen the public and private sector partnership to promote the regeneration of the East Lagan Riverside through a voluntary partnership agreement that includes: major landowners/developers/investors, Laganside Corporation, Belfast Regeneration Office, Planning Services, Roads Service, NI Housing Executive and East Belfast Partnership Board among others
  • Laganside Corporation to consider taking prime responsibility for design and implementation of key infrastructure and public realm projects

Belfast East Bank Photogallery



Belfast East Bank Photogallery


Willie Miller, the founder and principal of WMUD, died on 12th January 2021 after a short illness. Willie was a much-loved husband and father and had a huge circle of friends  and professional colleagues. He was a multi-talented urban designer whose work had a major impact on hundreds of cities, towns and neighbourhoods throughout the UK and over the past 25 years. He also worked in Ireland, the Channel Islands and the USA.

Ines Triebel has been with WMUD since 2005, and she will continue the practice, drawing on her skills as a planner and designer. Ines has worked on place strategies, masterplans, policy guidance, regeneration and development frameworks, and the design of public realm and streetscape projects. She has extensive experience of working with communities, including charrettes.

WMUD will continue its long-standing strategic partnerships with Benton Scott-Simmons, Nick Wright Planning, Kevin Murray Associates, icecream architecture, yellow book and others. Please direct inquiries to Ines at [email protected] or contact any of the practices named above.