Connswater Community Greenway is an urban regeneration project that is helping to transform East Belfast by combining improved flood protection with the creation of public spaces and pedestrian and cycle routes that connect communities.

The project represents a £40m investment, delivered by Belfast City Council in close collaboration with EastSide Partnership and Northern Ireland’s Rivers Agency, which is delivering flood alleviation measures for homes and businesses within the catchments of the Connswater, Knock and Loop rivers.

Arup played a central role by leading the project team during the phase two design and construction stages.

We engineered an approach that not only enhanced flood protection but also aimed at restoring and nurturing the natural environment. In addition to safeguarding against floods, our strategy involved the creation of 16km of walkways and cycling routes, blending environmental conservation with recreational opportunities for the community.

What could have been delivered as a standalone flood alleviation scheme and a separate urban regeneration programme have been combined to create lasting and positive benefits.

The project delivered a significant upgrade to the quality, safety, and vibrancy of East Belfast. These interventions support community cohesion and interactivity, economic development, improvements in public health, cleaner rivers, and greater flood resilience. It demonstrates the power of green infrastructure to contribute to a city’s wider community and economic development goals.

Flood protection

East Belfast is home to 40,000 residents and was identified by Northern Ireland's Rivers Agency as requiring greater protection against river and tidal events. The Connswater, Knock and Loop rivers flow through the area and a key goal was to restore them back to more natural forms to increase biodiversity, allow greater public access, and improve their general appearance. The river system was given a “kick start” to encourage a healthy dynamic and create more diverse habitats which should result in a wider range of flora and fauna. 

The river banks have been softened by removing debris, refuse and replacing stone revetments with more natural forms and native aquatic planting. These measures are expected to support future improvements in the rivers’ ecological status, as required by the EU Water Framework Directive.

Connswater Community Greenway was designed to play a central role in the delivery of the East Belfast Flood Alleviation Scheme, and to incorporate 4.1km of new reinforced concrete floodwalls and 1.2km of flood embankments. Combining flood alleviation with wider regeneration measures has delivered cost savings while minimising disruption for local communities and the environment.

Bridges connecting communities

One of the most visible elements of the project is a series of new pedestrian and cycle bridges engineered by our team. Seven new steel bridges and two small-span wooden bridges now act as connections between communities, linking a network of green spaces. 

Where once the Connswater, Knock and Loop rivers acted as barriers to public movement, they are now facilitating sustainable travel and healthier lifestyles, and are reconnecting people and places.