Cross-party support to deal with anti-social behaviour

Cross-party support to deal with anti-social behaviour

24 November 2021

WORK is expected to start soon to fence off what has been described as an “anti-social behaviour hot spot” in Downpatrick.

The move — which has secured cross-party support — comes after a meeting at Thomas Russell Park involving the PSNI, local residents and politicians.

A number of residents were joined by nspector Darren Hardy, Downpatrick area councillors Oonagh Hanlon and Cadogan Enright and Newry, Mourne and Down Council chairwoman Cathy Mason.

The hot spot is an NIE sub-station close to Dunleath Park which backs on to the housing estate.

Elected representatives say they are grateful to Inspector Hardy for his “proactive stance” in writing to the local authority, the district’s Policing and Community Safety Partnership and Housing Executive in support of a community petition to have the area closed off.

As part of the work, it has also been agreed to build a new footpath free from mud and grime which is suitable for wheelchairs and buggies to access the nearby park.

Inspector Hardy said it was important to listen to the local community and, where possible, design-out obvious anti-social hotspots like the one in Thomas Russell Park.

Cllr Mason said she welcomed the collaborative approach to addressing the ongoing problems affecting residents at this part of Downpatrick, with the work also including an improved pathway linking the housing area with Dunleath.

Cllr Hanlon said she had “listened carefully” to the concerns of the community at this part of the town, with the enhancement of the Dunleath area and installation of a walking path an opportunity to fence off an area providing cover for anti-social behaviour, while still allowing pedestrian access to the park.

“This was very important to those who use the path to access local services such as the bus station and Down Leisure Centre,” she explained. 

“At a recent meeting with the Housing Executive, it agreed to carry out maintenance work in the area which was also completed this week.”

Cllr Enright said it was very helpful to have PSNI support to fence off the NIE sub-station which had been used as an anti-social hotspot for many years, with local residents assaulted and windows broken in homes.

“The area is co-owned by the local council and the Housing Executive and it is to be welcomed that both organisations have created a budget to deal with this anti-social behaviour issue at long last,” he said.

“Unbelievably, the miscreants broke into the high-voltage electricity sub-station last year and were using it to store their drink. I arranged for police to confiscate it and NIE Networks to replace the lock.”

Cllr Enright said it has been agreed that when the fencing is erected, along with wall improvements and a new gate erected, there will be a public services special lock allowing NIE and the emergency services only access to the site.

He said the planned work will also provide an opportunity to plant out the area with native nature-friendly trees like holly, hawthorn, whitethorn and oak.