Martin Derby lives near Glassmullin Green

Friends of Glassmullin Open Green

Everyone should have access to green space, especially in densely populated areas. That's the belief of Friends of Glassmullin Open Green campaign group in Belfast.
  Published:  06 Aug 2019    |      2 minute read

Glassmullin Open Green in Belfast has been through many incarnations. 

Originally open fields on the outskirts of Andersonstown, it became a beloved green space for residents moving from the inner city in the 1950s.

During the Troubles in the 1970s, it was lost to the community when it became ‘Silver City’, a British army fort.

But when the army left, a vibrant campaign resulted in the green being restored to its original use as an urban green space for the community. 

Glassmullin Green under threat again

So local man Martin Derby and his neighbours were dismayed when in 2015, planning permission was granted to change the use of the land and restrict public access.

Local secondary school, De La Salle College, wants to install a sports training facility on the community green. The plans involve removing the grass and replacing it with an artificial 3G pitch, fencing the area off and restricting access for the community.

The community has no objection to sharing usage of the green with the school, however they do not believe that this development is in the best interests of their community. "The proposal will involve taking away real grass and replacing it with an artificial surface," says Aithne Kerrigan, a Glassmullin Green resident of 14 years.

She enjoys and values the green. She has two young children, and her 6 year old daughter, Faye, learnt to ride a bike there.

"Many of the flats and houses around here don't have gardens. It's densely populated and we need outside space," she says. "We've seen greylag geese and all kinds of garden birds there. It's just a beautiful, peaceful place."

Our forefathers understood how important this green space was to the community, so why do we have to lose it now?Aithne Kerrigan

Friends of Glassmullin Open Green

Friends of Glassmullin Open Green was formed in 2013 when the community first heard about the school's plans.

“This development sends out the message that people in urban areas don’t deserve access to green space. Our community loves and values Glassmullin, and future generations depend on us to fight to protect it for all,” says Martin Derby. Read Martin's full story.

The group's main activities involves talking to neighbours and members of the community about the proposals. 

Friends of Glassmullin Green put in a number of objections to the planning application, but soon realised that plans had advanced further than they initially thought:

"It felt like a land grab. The council just wanted to sell it off as quickly as possible," says Aithne.

Planning permission was granted, prompting the group to up their game. They lobbied Belfast city council, and met the permanent secretary for education to highlight how few open green spaces West Belfast has, and the need to protect those that exist.  

Friends of Glassmullin Open Green hold a protest
Friends of Glassmullin Open Green hold a protest
Credit: Friends of Glassmullin Open Green

 

Friends of the Earth Northern Ireland

Friends of the Earth in Northern Ireland has played a key supporting role in this community campaign, and offered practical advice on lobbying politicians. 

The group have also been supported by 'Nature's Keepers' – a photo and video project set up by Friends of the Earth Europe to highlight local environmental struggles across the continent. 

"The Nature's Keepers initiative gave us the platform to highlight the importance of urban green spaces and their value to the health and well being of our community," says Aithne.

Next steps

A contractor has been appointed to carry out the work of converting the area to an artificial pitch. Aithne says as yet the community has not been given a date for the work to commence.

"If this goes ahead, I'm just going to sit on the green and refuse to move. We are protectors. We deserve green space and are determined to protect what we have for this generation and those to come," she says.

Climate Action Groups

If you're inspired by Friends of Glassmullin Open Green, why not consider joining one of Friends of the Earth's new climate action groups?