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Annual Report April 2009 to March 2010


COMPANY INFORMATION Directors I Adamson (appointed 1/1/10) W Andrews (appointed 1/10/09) G Best J Blaney C Calvert G Campbell J Crilly M Dobson T Duffy (resigned 25/6/09) T Enright C Hamill D Kinahan I McDougall J McMullan – Co-opted (Treasurer) T Russell I Simpson Independent Chair D O’Connor Company Secretary J Bradley Company Number NI053189 Charity Ref no XR70288 Auditors FGS McClure Watters Thomas House 14-16 James St South Belfast BT2 0HW Bankers First Trust Bank 2/4 Finaghy Road North Belfast BT10 0JA Solicitors Cleaver Fulton Rankin 50 Bedford Street Belfast BT2 7FW


CHAIRMAN’S REPORT It is my pleasure to report to you on the progress made in 2009 to 2010, a year which saw us celebrate the 5th anniversary of the launch of the Belfast Hills Partnership. Those 5 years may seem short compared to the many previous years our partners worked towards managing the Belfast hills in better ways, but our progress in that time has been inspirational. A good example of this was our Cave Hill “Staircase to the Cave” event which was just part of our work to raise the public profile of the hills. With just three staff and lots of volunteers we managed to catch the imagination of not just the hundreds of visitors who turned up on the day but many more who heard the very wide media coverage obtained by this event. We also launched our Friends of the Belfast Hills initiative which has grown steadily and given people who care about the hills a chance to show their support for our work, for which we are very grateful. Another aspect of our rising profile has been the number of community groups, particularly those on the urban fringes of the hills, who have sought our help and environmental expertise to assist with planning and development of community spaces and projects. We continue to help with these vital areas of work as much as we can. One very promising development has been our work with a range of partners in developing the Divis to Dixon Link. The National Trust have led on this access project which links a necklace of public sites – Black Mountain, Glenside Woodland, Upper Collin Valley, Colin Glen Park, Jubilee Park and finally Sir

Thomas and Lady Dixon Park and beyond to the Lagan towpath. Our guided events along this route have received wonderfully positive feedback which shows the great potential of these access links across our landscapes. After years of searching, we believe we have found an excellent office base at the Social Economy Village on one of the main routes into the hills. We moved in during May 2009 and have been pleased to have not only the office space we need but also be in the hills themselves. Amidst all this good work, this year has been dominated by funding issues. We were due to apply for our three year core funding and at one time faced a cut of over 40%, which would have had drastic and immediate effects on our ability to deliver work such as that outlined above. We have managed to lobby and receive a stay of execution on this but, like so many similar organisations, we face a future of potential cuts and uncertainties. In November 2009 we also applied for major funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund for a Landscape Partnership Scheme which would deliver a wide range of practical biodiversity, heritage and community benefits across the hills. We now know that this has been successful and will mark a new era of positive partnership in the Belfast Hills over the next five years. Finally, I would like to extend our thanks to the Board, all the partners and volunteers and of course the staff who have continued to deliver real progress in difficult circumstances. I commend this report to the meeting. Danny O’Connor


PARTNERSHIP MANAGER’S REPORT We have had a successful year marked by moving into our new offices, completing key projects and applying for major new core and project funding. I will outline progress across our work areas under the headings of Environmental, Economic and Social plus Corporate work.

boxes in the northern area of the hills in response to the reported loss of traditional nesting sites. Our successful programme of events has not only introduced visitors to the wildlife of the hills, it has also unearthed key records – important finds such as Frog Orchid and Hen Harrier.

ENVIRONMENTAL Biodiversity During this time, we continued our biodiversity project work such as our Colin Glen Invasive Species project. I am pleased to report that this is proving very productive, with a marked decrease in Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam stands. It is now vital to keep up this work over the next few years in the Colin valley and in other areas across the hills. Another major aspect of our work has been the ongoing fire mapping in both summer 2009 and early spring 2010 which shows patterns of plant growth and burning over the years. This will hopefully help in adopting new understanding and approaches to how we might manage this problem. We continue to record sightings of key species and try to improve habitats. One example of this is the erection of barn owl

Land Management We have continued to seek the securing of the Cemex quarry site for biodiversity and access and built good partnerships to help with this key project. Allied to this is our hope to secure new management arrangements for Glenside Community Woodland. We have maintained our site managers’ network meetings through which we have initiated plans for joint projects such as Rural Development Programme bids.

Landscape A major body of work has been the application for funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund for a Landscape Partnership Scheme which subsequently proved successful and will therefore deliver a range of biodiversity, heritage and community benefits over the next few years.


ECONOMIC Agriculture We have publicised and encouraged Countryside Management Scheme entry for farmers/landowners, as well as circulating information about and formulating bids for Rural Development Programme projects.

Events Our 2009-2010 events programme proved to be very popular and was evidence of the growing interest of local people in visiting the hills. These events proved particularly useful in encouraging visits to lesser known sites in the hills. Community An increasing number of local community groups approached us during the year seeking assistance and support in the planning and development of community space projects, particularly in providing specialist environmental expertise. We were also asked to assist with planning issues and concerns relating to waste and housing development proposals.

Waste We continue to work with NIEA and other statutory bodies to play a positive part in waste developments. Part of this has been to comment and encourage community participation in the proposed developments impacting the Belfast hills, ranging from compost facilities to private waste incinerators. At a smaller level, we have initiated a regular fly tipping survey across the hills which we will continue and also publicise to lobby for improvements. SOCIAL Access and Recreation We assisted in the Divis to Dixon Link Project which has proved very successful. We also carried out a visitor site survey on both Cave Hill and Black Mountain, which showed good levels of tourists, satisfaction with site facilities and suggested improvements. A Belfast Hills Recreation Development Plan was drafted, based on last year’s Recreation Audit, and is due to be completed in the near future. This will be a key document in relation to the Landscape Partnership Scheme.

Communications This proved a good year in terms of building up awareness and media coverage of the Belfast hills. This was particularly evident through coverage of our events, our success with our Friends group and our new presence on Facebook and Twitter. CORPORATE As well as the substantial work devoted to funding issues, we have produced a common Belfast Hills Vision as an aid to forward planning. Our Baseline Study was repeated showing progress across a range of key indicators. This work supported our 2010-2013 Business Plan and funding bids. We continued to encourage and facilitate research to gain useful knowledge and raise awareness about the Belfast Hills. Finally, can I warmly thank both our Chair and the Board for their stalwart support during this year. Jim Bradley Partnership Manager


BELFAST HILLS PARTNERSHIP 20102011 WORK PLAN Funding cuts will inevitably have an impact on what we can deliver this coming year. We will nevertheless maintain our ambitious set of objectives and seek alternative funding for some of the work areas below. In 2010-2011 we will:-

Landscape Partnership Scheme under which a comprehensive Belfast Hills Management Plan will be drawn up. ACCESS AND RECREATION 1. execute our Recreation Development Plan in collaboration with key partners. 2. apply for RDP funding to carry out path and other facility provision.

BIODIVERSITY 1. seek to purchase the Glenside Quarry which abuts Slievenacloy Nature Reserve and positively manage this site for biodiversity, focusing particularly on improving the ASSI designated heathland. 2. work with landowners and volunteers to ensure that new surveys are initiated in a planned way across sites e.g. for skylark and meadow pipit.

3. raise awareness of the Barn Owl within communities and erect a minimum of one barn owl box with the assistance of a local community group. 4. continue to carry out invasive species mapping and control along the Colin Glen River. Invasive species mapping and control will be widened to include sites such as Carnmoney Hill. 5. encourage and support student research projects in the Belfast Hills. 6. seek funding and start the delivery of a River Awareness Project. LANDSCAPE 1. produce an interim Belfast Hills Landscape Policy based upon BHP’s landscape audit. 2. initiate a Landscape Partnership Project. This will involve Stage One of our

3. secure the purchase of the Glenside Quarry which would provide new land for public recreational needs, access routes and links. 4. work along with Council Access Officers as well as landowners to provide new and improved access. 5. provide a walking map and guide, other recreational guides and internet information to increase public awareness of the Belfast Hills. 6. take a minimum of two groups ‘Healthy’ walking in the hills. 7. continue to assess the impact of access on the local environment. 8. map green space and access routes with one local community group.

TOURISM 1. secure RDP funding to carry out a Belfast Hills Sustainable Rural Tourism Project which will improve facilities, interpretation and information provision. 2. pilot a “rambler” bus service for the Belfast Hills.


3. work along with partners to install visitor survey systems. 4. actively seek and promote an Approved Guides List for the Belfast Hills. SUSTAINABLE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT 1. publicise, encourage and provide advice on RDP funding. 2. begin an audit of small businesses in the Belfast Hills. 3. work with NIEA to reduce illegal landfilling in the Belfast Hills. 4. monitor and report flytipping. 5. continue to promote the Countryside Management Scheme to local farmers. 6. work with farmers to undertake practical biodiversity improvements. 7. research for a geodiversity Hills Rock Project which will result in a booklet and CD Rom. 8. encourage sensitive quarry restoration where appropriate in conjunction with QPANI’s biodiversity officer. PLANNING AND CONSULTATIONS 1. continue to respond to relevant planning applications and consultations. 2. encourage developers to discuss projects with BHP staff pre-application. 3. disseminate BMAP findings to all partners. COMMUNITY & QUALITY OF LIFE ISSUES 1. continue to support and advise local community groups on site development and management.

2. continue to lobby for improved public transport throughout the Belfast Hills. 3. develop a Hills Apprentice Project to allow engagement with young people about the hills. 4. continue to lobby for an improvement to the roads system and seek commercial traffic management systems for all major new developments. 5. involve people in a local oral history project.

CORPORATE 1. review our Operational Area in the light of RPA. 2. investigate alternative sources of income in order to become more sustainable in the long term. 3. encourage more people to be involved through volunteering and our Friends Group. 4. continually identify and research best practice, innovation in information provision and awareness raising. 5. encourage research projects to be carried out in the Belfast Hills.


BELFAST HILLS PARTNERSHIP INCOME & EXPENDITURE 2009-2010

2010 £

2009 £

GROSS INCOME

142,878

179,115

GROSS EXPENDITURE

142,889

197,812

(11)

(18,697)

42,430

42,441

SURPLUS/(DEFICIT)

YEAR END RESERVES

This summary is based on the External Audit Report for 2009-2010 carried out by FGS McClure Watters. (See full Audit Accounts for details).


PARTNERSHIP STAFF & DIRECTORS Staff Dr Jim Bradley - Partnership Manager Dr Lizzy Pinkerton - Hills Project Officer Andrea McKernon – Communication and Information Officer (PT) Admin Officer Post (PT) – Claire Martin Volunteer Admin Assistant – Ruby Kirkland Independent Chair Danny O’Connor Directors The Directors on the Board and the bodies to which they belong are as follows: COMMUNITIES / USERS Communities Bill Andrews – Shankill Communities Jim Blaney - Glen Road Environmental Action Group Local Conservation Groups Terry Enright - Black Mountain Environment Group Cormac Hamill - Cave Hill Conservation Campaign Recreation Groups Ian McDougall – Northern Ireland Sports Forum LANDOWNING / MANAGING Farmers George Campbell - Ulster Farmers Union Ian Simpson - Ulster Farmers Union Local Economic Tracy Russell - Belfast Hills Waste Management Operators Quarries Gordon Best - NI Quarry Products Association Nature Conservation Mike Dobson - The National Trust

STATUTORY Cllr. Danny Kinahan - Antrim Borough Council Cllr. Ian Adamson - Belfast City Council Alderman Cecil Calvert - Lisburn City Council Cllr. Janet Crilly - Newtownabbey Borough Council Treasurer John McMullan (Co-opted Director)


BHP MISSION & OBJECTIVES The mission for the Belfast Hills Partnership is to Provide a practical and integrated management mechanism for the Belfast Hills thereby contributing to the conservation, protection and enhancement of its natural, built and cultural heritage and providing for responsible countryside enjoyment. Contribute to the quality of life of communities on the fringes of the Belfast Hills, rural residents of the area and to the wider urban & rural environment. Work in partnership with others towards the realisation of the Belfast Hills vision, within a Belfast Hills Sustainable Development Initiative.

The strategic aims of the Partnership are to

Core funded by: Antrim Borough Council Belfast City Council Northern Ireland Environment Agency (Department of the Environment) Lisburn City Council Newtownabbey Borough Council

Conserve, protect and enhance the natural, cultural and built heritage of the Belfast Hills. Encourage individuals, communities and organisations to care for the Belfast Hills. Raise awareness of the value of the Belfast Hills and of issues relating to their protection. Manage existing recreational use of the Belfast Hills. Support and assist farmers and landowners under pressure from urban development, and from inappropriate forms of countryside recreation. Contribute to the economic regeneration of communities in the Belfast Hills and adjoining city. Contribute to a positive image of Belfast, Lisburn, Newtownabbey and Antrim through an attractive, well managed and functioning visual backdrop to these areas.

9 Social Economy Village, Hannahstown Hill, Belfast BT17 0XS Tel: (028) 90603466 Fax: (028) 90309867 Email: info@belfasthills.org www.belfasthills.org


Has been kindly supported in 2009-2010 by:


BHP Annual Report 2010 Final