Downpatrick Masterplan blueprint being gutted warn ALL politicians

Downpatrick Masterplan blueprint being gutted warn ALL politicians

17 May 2017

THE Downpatrick Masterplan, the economic blueprint for the long term future development of the county town, has been decimated by Newry, Mourne and Down Council according to local politicians.

Senior council officials have ped almost all the major projects and initiatives from the Stormont-led Masterplan, reigniting claims that ‘Downpatrick suffers as Newry flourishes.’

One politician this week claimed that 95 per cent of the projects in the Masterplan have “simply disappeared” while another warned if the council is allowed to get away with the changes it will relegate Downpatrick to “peripheral status.”

The threat to the Masterplan is so severe that every politician elected in the Downpatrick area has taken time away from electioneering to strongly criticise the council’s proposals.

The outgoing MP, Margaret Ritchie, MLAs Chris Hazzard and Colin McGrath and the town’s five councillors, Cadogan Enright, Dermot Curran, Naomi Bailie, Gareth Sharvin and John Trainor, have all united to condemn the watering down of the Masterplan and call for the changes to be scrapped.

Members of Downpatrick District Electoral Area Forum (DEA), the body set up by the council as a sounding block for the area, have also unanimously criticised the council for what they believe is the removal of so much of the Masterplan projects.

The Masterplan was launched in 2010 as a long term vision for the future development of Downpatrick and proposed major economic development and infrastructure projects. It was intended to form the basis for the development of Downpatrick in the new Area Plan which is currently being drawn up.

However, a large number of these projects have now been removed from the plan including:

• Plans for a Quoile Country Park, a project of “national significance” stretching from land beside Downpatrick Railway behind the Mound of Down and eventually linking up with the Quoile Pondage.

• The building of a new road linking the Ballydugan Road with St Patrick’s Avenue.

• The development of a new retail quarter taking in the sites of the Grove Shopping Centre, library, Social Services buildings and the bus depot.

• The eastern distributor road connecting the Belfast Road to the Saul Road and then the Downshire public sector campus.

• The extension of Downpatrick and County Down Railway.

• A project to boost the evening economy of Downpatrick.

• The creation of a linear park linking the town centre with the Downshire Civic Centre, involving pedestrian, cycling and public transport links.

The criticism also relates to the Council’s recently published and much criticised Tourism Strategy which the DEA claims downgrades the St Patrick’s Trail and omits references to Lecale.

All the politicians and the DEA have called for the council to bring back the Downpatrick Masterplan Implementation Group which has not met for three years. Senior council managers are resisting this call, saying the implementation of all the area’s master plans is being carried out by officials in the Newry-based Enterprise, Regeneration and Tourism Department.

Downpatrick independent councillor, Cadogan Enright, who first warned of the downgrading of the Masterplan, claimed the council had removed 95 per cent of the projects from the Masterplan, which has led to the political unity among all the area’s politicians.

“It is clear that management have misjudged the mood in east Down on this issue and misjudged the importance we associated with the Downpatrick Area Masterplan,” he said.