Council may buy old school for Newcastle leisure centre

Council may buy old school for Newcastle leisure centre

21 November 2012

DOWN Council is to investigate the possibility of purchasing a vacant school site in Newcastle.

The former home of St. Mary’s Girls’ Primary at Shanslieve Drive has been identified as a possible location for Newcastle’s new multi-million pound leisure centre.

Council officials have already suggested building the new centre on an existing soccer pitch in Donard Park which runs parallel with the main car park, but they have been asked to examine other sites.

The vacant primary school, which backs on to Donard Park, is owned by church officials who are to be asked if they are interested in selling or leasing the site to the council.

Plans to build a new leisure centre in the resort were discussed at last week’s meeting of Newcastle Chamber of Commerce.

In attendance were Down Council chief executive, Mr. John Dumigan, Leisure Services Director Michael Lipsett, local politicians and Mr. Andy Hall from Tollymore Football Club.

It was agreed at the meeting that council officials should “actively endeavour” to acquire the Shanslieve Drive site and discuss with planning officials what kind of development would be acceptable at this location.

Councillor Carmel O’Boyle has welcomed agreement to investigate the possibility of securing the school site, but remains concerned it may be too late to pursue what she described as the “most sensible option.” She said it must always be preferable to build on a brown field site.

“It is clear that negotiation over the purchase or lease of the school site is still an option, in spite of claims by some to the contrary,” she continued.

“For over 20 months I have proposed that the brown field site should be given due consideration. This is now about to happen.”

Councillor O’Boyle has also welcomed Down Council’s decision to appoint consultants to prepare detailed designs and a business case for the new leisure centre.

She added: “I have asked that we enter into serious discussions with the Planning Service to get a firm opinion about what would and would not be acceptable on the brown field site.

“A public meeting will also be convened to which everyone will be invited to discuss the options that are available for the new leisure centre in Newcastle.”