Brief to redevelop Irish Street closer

Brief to redevelop Irish Street closer

9 October 2019

A DEVELOPMENT brief designed to transform the former Irish Street police station site in Downpatrick and a number of adjacent empty buildings could be ready within weeks, the Down Recorder understands. 

Newry, Mourne and Down Council and the Department for Communities are helping spearhead a an exciting retail and commercial proposal aimed at transforming the town’s economy.

Final agreement has been reached with all key stakeholders to draw up a dedicated team to come up with a development brief which will outline what the local authority would like to see developed at a huge area of land.

The brief aims to encourage developers to come forward to redevelop the area, while there are also plans to work alongside the local community on the design of the site to maximise its potential and make the most of its historical heritage.

When completed, the development brief will be advertised, inviting third parties to come forward with viable proposals for the site that will result in sustainable regeneration in Downpatrick town centre.

It has also been confirmed that permission has been secured to purchase an outstanding piece of ground close to the irish Street car park to allow the ambitious proposal to proceed.

It’s almost two years since it was revealed that the former police station site had been earmarked for a major economic regeneration initiative which could potentially include new housing.

A number of the vacant buildings will be bulldozed to open up a huge area at the rear of the former police station, with the proposed development site also including the local authority-owned car park.

But the former police station — which enjoys protected status – will not be razed to the ground as part of the ambitious multi-million pound regeneration plan. It is set to remain a key feature of the proposed redevelopment project.

Council officials insist that the former police base’s listed building status is not an impediment to the development of the site and while they concede that preserving the building will be a challenge, it is also presents an opportunity to something exciting with it.

The heritage value of the site, which extends as far back as St Patrick’s Avenue, is something council officials are not only keen to preserve, but build upon as they work with the Department for Communities to maximise the potential of the site.

The government department, which has already acquired the former PSNI base, is working in partnership with the local authority to help bring new investment to Downpatrick town centre.

Leading brands such as Marks and Spencer and Home Bargains, along with several other big names, are keen to invest in Downpatrick, but at present cannot identify suitable accommodation to meet their respective needs.

Those behind the Irish Street plan hope that a redevelopment scheme can act as a catalyst for additional town centre investment, increasing footfall and providing a boost for existing businesses which have been at the backbone of the town’s economy for many years.

Councillor Dermot Curran has welcomed confirmation that work on the development brief could be completed shortly.

He believes that the transformation of the former police base and adjacent land can provide Downpatrick with a significant economic boost, creating new retail space and much-needed jobs.

Cllr Curran reiterated the importance of the town’s business community being asked for its input into the redevelopment plan which has the potential to attract more shoppers to the town.

He said many will be looking forward to seeing the detail of the development brief and the potential options for a hugely important development site in the heart of Downpatrick.

“There has been no significant retail investment in the town for quite some time. The Irish Street proposal has the potential to transform the town centre, providing additional business for existing traders,” Cllr Curran added.