Difficult times ahead

Difficult times ahead

23 November 2011

A STORMONT Minister has said “creative thinking” will be required to help regenerate the Ballyhornan area.

Mr. Danny Kennedy’s comments came after a visit to the area last week organised by South Down MP Margaret Ritchie.

Upgrading the roads and sewerage infrastructure which serves homes at the former Bishopscourt RAF base is viewed as the driver to unlocking the area’s future potential. But Mr. Kennedy admits this won’t easy.

Politicians have been campaigning for years without success for the roads and sewerage systems to be brought up to a standard which would result in them becoming the responsibility of Mr. Kennedy’s Department for Regional Development.

They argue the area has missed out on regeneration funding over many years although a vibrant community association is now in place which has delivered a new family centre and which is seeking to develop a 3G sports pitch.

After a bus tour of the former RAF base last week, the Regional Development Minister said when it comes to tackling what is required, there will be a need for creativity and innovation.

“Yes the roads and sewerage and infrastructure need to be addressed. The roads are privately owned, so there are issues around this. But we are where we are and now we have to make the best of it,” he said.

“Whilst there are massive problems, there is also massive potential in the area and I will liaise with local politicians, other public representatives and my Executive colleagues to see if we can move things forward.”

Mr. Kennedy said that following his tour of the area, he would accept that the conditions in the Ballyhornan are “less than favourable.” He said while there is a history to the former RAF base and many problems, he needs to examine ways in which he could possibly help.

“I am not here today to make commitments. I’m here to look closely to see if there is anything we can do. This is a vast site, I’m absolutely astonished by its size,” he revealed.

Mr. Kennedy also admitted that securing finance for the work required in the Ballyhornan area would be difficult, as would finding a way through a lot of the issues.

“I suppose we will need to be creative. I need to go back and assess the need and look at budgets. This is a very crosscutting issue in terms of other government departments and I would have to take their mind on this as well and to see what plans if any they have so we can work on this,” the minister continued.

“A phased approach to what’s required is one way forward. There is no magic wand solution. We need to think our way through this, plan it and see how we could make a difference on a phased basis.”