It has become a bit of a cliché to note that most people walk around cities without ever looking up at some of the architectural wonders ranged above them. I would suggest that people look down when out walking, particularly in Belfast city centre, which is home to some of the most offensive examples of street paving I have ever seen.
Castle Lane has to be the worst. Surely, there can'’t be a single person willing to defend this paving disgrace. Take a walk along Castle Lane, from Royal Avenue to Corn Market, and you'’ll see what I mean. What was once a reasonably pleasing brick-paved lane has become a patchwork mess of mismatched stones and tarmac. Where a brick has been damaged, tarmac has filled its space. Even the manhole recesses have been filled with tarmac. In one instance, where some of the bricks in a manhole recess have been damaged, we get a sloppy mix of brick and tarmac, with one brick sporting a tarmac filled hole. Click on the photograph above to increase its size and witness this atrocity.
In one place, the words 'Castle Lane' used to be etched in the paving. Now it just says 'Lane'’ as the tarmac has obliterated the rest.
The paving disaster doesn'’t stop at Castle Lane. Look at Corn Market. What is going on? As soon as the bandstand was removed, an ugly amalgam of paving bricks was quickly thrown down. The result is a slightly sloping, many-coloured, paved mound. Didn'’t anyone think to level the surface first?
It would appear morons at the Roads Service are to blame. Since the mid-1980s, it has been Roads Service practice to replace broken flagstones with tarmac, as tarmac is cheaper than any other form of paving. They don't seem to give any consideration to aesthetics.
Just last week, I noticed a tiny square of tarmac embedded in a brick pavement, close to my home. Doubtless, this square will eventually spread like a cancerous growth and spoil the rest of the pavement. Perhaps I should follow the example of 67 year-old Gary Kelly, a Turf Lodge pensioner, who recently sat on the pavement outside his home and successfully prevented Road Service replacing the broken paving stones with tarmac.
"Tarmac is just depressing to see, " said Mr Kelly. "It is only a small matter, but it's the principle of the thing."