‘Significant’ year for council

‘Significant’ year for council

6 February 2019

COUNCIL chief executive Liam Hannaway reflected upon the organisation’s work over the past year during the annual rates meeting.

He said the organisation continued to deliver on both the services and key projects that were agreed in its current four-year corporate plan which ends in 2019, working to improve the local authority’s recycling rates, both for blue and brown bin collections, reducing the amount of waste going to landfill by 60%. 

Mr Hannaway said the council was also delighted to open the new £16m Down Leisure Centre which he described as a “signature project” that will make a real contribution to improving citizens’ health and wellbeing. 

“We are even more ambitious for the coming year, with the agreement on funding for the Belfast Region City Deal, we have plans for a new conference and theatre facility in Newry City, the delivery of the Southern Relief Road and a 10-year programme of economic growth,” the chief executive continued.

“The reopening of the Warrenpoint Municipal Park in August and the opening of the Carlingford Lough Greenway from Newry to Victoria Lock in July demonstrate our council’s commitment to improving our area’s attractions and environment.”

Mr Hannaway said that in the coming year Newry and its Cathedral Corridor would see £100,000 for improvements, festive lighting and events, to building on what has already been achieved in these locations.

His focus also turned to Brexit, explaining that as the March 29 deadline for leaving edges ever closer, the council’s relationships with government departments, the EU, cross border bodies and institutions across Ireland and Britain will become even more important as it seeks to improve the district.

“These partnerships will remain a priority for the coming year as we deliver initiatives, programmes and services for all the people living, working and investing in our district,” he continued.

“Some of the projects that will be progressed during the 2019/20 year include further revitalisation of Warrenpoint, with £150,000 for town improvements, including shop fronts, new signage and a promotional and marketing campaign. 

“The council has also secured approval for the Ballynahinch bypass, a plan that will greatly improve access throughout the area and relieve the traffic congestion in the town centre.”

Mr Hannaway said plans for the southern relief road in Newry will be progressed after the preferred route was announced and was confident that developing a strategic link road between the A1 Dublin Road and the A2 Warrenpoint Road — a project that the council is working on with Stormont officials –  will contribute to increasing the economy of the whole region.

He said improving public services and the way they were implemented was another important goal for the council in the new financial year, revealing that five ambitious performance improvement objectives had been identified.

They include encouraging healthy lifestyles, improving economic growth and promoting the district as a premier tourist destination, delivering urban and rural regeneration initiatives, creating a cleaner, greener district, and encouraging and empowering local communities to work with the Council to deliver on its programmes. 

“Over the coming months, the council will be working with local groups to ensure that their views on how best to implement these important goals,” he confirmed.

“Over the coming year, the historic town of Downpatrick will benefit from a new public realm improvement scheme as part of the Masterplan which will be delivered in partnership with the Department for Communities and the Department for Infrastructure.” 

Mr Hannaway said the district continued to benefit from EU funding, with £2.3m being provided to South East Area Fisheries Local Action Group which promotes economic growth and job creation in coastal and inland communities.

Under the PEACE IV programme £4.7m had been allocated to the council to deliver the Local Authority Action Plan—Beyond Tolerance in the three key areas of children and young people, shared spaces and services, and building positive relationships.

Projects funded under this initiative include an archaeological dig near Down Cathedral which will help provide more information on the legacy of St Patrick and a cross-community choir aimed at establishing and developing new relationships.