Downpatrick improvement scheme could get more cash

Downpatrick improvement scheme could get more cash

3 August 2022

DOWNPATRICK’S Church Street could be in line for additional environmental improvements.

While £200,000 has already been spent on a much-needed revitalisation scheme, more cash could be invested in the future to further enhance one of the main gateways into the town.

Previous funding was provided by the Department for Communities and Newry, Mourne and Down Council and ideas are now being examined for further improvements to the public realm, should additional money become available.

Downpatrick Sinn Fein councillor Oonagh Hanlon was one of a number of local politicians who met recently with business community representatives, local authority officials and consultants to look at what other improvement work could be carried out in Church Street.

She said those who attended the walkabout meeting were presented with a concept design brief for Church Street, should future funding become available. 

“Ideas discussed included improved pavements, providing planters and trees, removing overhead powerlines and cables enhancements to the front of the BT building,” Cllr Hanlon revealed.

The councillor explained that previous enhancements in Church Street included the provision of so-called history story boards, murals, enhanced planting at the Belfast Road roundabout and Saul Way junction.

New interpretation material which has been provided highlights the Tower Bell at Down Parish Church and the grave of United Irishman Thomas Russell in the church grounds, while new bus shelters have also been suggested alongside a deep clean of the area in any new investment initiative.

Describing the recent meeting as “productive’, Cllr Hanlon said that following an initial presentation, it was important to walk through the area to ensure the consultants understood the challenges of Church Street given it is quite a significant area. 

She added: “It is important to be prepared for future environmental improvement schemes  and overcoming challenges at the concept design stage will avoid problems in the future.

“It is clear that there is commitment from this group to keep regeneration firmly on the agenda for Downpatrick. Sinn Fein will continue to work with all stakeholders to identify and secure funding as it becomes available.”

Work that has been carried out to date in Church Street has been welcomed by residents and local businesses, given that this part of the town has largely missed out on public sector investment over recent years.

Significant investment has been pumped into neighbouring Market Street, Irish Street and Scotch Street and while Church Street was viewed as the poor relation when it came to so-called public realm schemes, the Department of Communities and local council are working to change that.

The government department is already heavily involved in the regeneration of the former police base at Irish Street in the town and while progress has been slow, there are hopes that progress can be made in the near future to significantly enhance this part of the town and help attract new investment and create job opportunities.

Redeveloping the former police base site and neighbouring properties has been described by all those involved in the proposal as a “game-changer” which can act as a catalyst to secure more investment, increasing footfall which will benefit existing traders.