Former police station is key to Irish Street plan

Former police station is key to Irish Street plan

10 October 2018

DOWNPATRICK’S former police base will not be bulldozed as part of an ambitious multi-million pound plan to regenerate the Irish Street area of the town.

Instead, the building — which enjoys protected status — is to remain a key feature of a proposed redevelopment project which, in addition to new retail and commercial space, could also include an element of housing provision.

Fears that the police base would be razed to the ground as part of a major regeneration initiative  have this week been dismissed, but it has been confirmed that a suggested new £3m road through the site linking Irish Street with St Patrick’s Avenue will not go ahead.

Council officials insist the former police base’s listed building status is not an impediment to the development of the site.

They view preserving the base as an opportunity and a challenge, insisting it very much remains part of the overall development project and potentially could be utilised as an attractive entrance feature.

The heritage value of the Irish Street area is something council officials are not only keen to preserve, but build upon as they work with the Department for Communities to maximise the potential of the site.

Detailed appraisals have confirmed that the estimated cost of the proposed road cannot be justified given the minimal impact it would have on easing town centre traffic congestion. The road is also viewed as a hindrance to the development of the site.

Council officials say their roads counterparts have made it very clear that the construction of the new link does not merit the cost involved, given that it will have a minimal impact on traffic flows.

Ambitious plans for a new retail and commercial centre at the site of the town’s former police base, a number of adjoining empty buildings and the Irish Street car park, were first unveiled last December.

Since then, the Department for Communities subsequently purchased the site and is working in partnership with Newry, Mourne and Down Council to deliver the multi-million pound town centre regeneration initiative designed to bring new investment to the town.

Council officials are determined to deliver the major scheme and are excited at the development potential the Irish Street site offers and want to maximise its potential.

In addition, they are aware that leading brands such as Marks and Spencer and Home Bargains, along with several other big names, are keen to invest in Downpatrick, but at present cannot identify suitable accommodation to meet their respective needs.

Council officials have confirmed this week that work is continuing on a development brief for the Irish Street site, which will outline what they would like to see developed at a huge area of land.

The brief aims to encourage developers to come forward to redevelop the area, while there are also plans to work alongside the local community on the design of the site to maximise its potential and make the most of its historical heritage.

Council officials are confident the proposed redevelopment can act as a catalyst for additional town centre investment, increasing footfall and providing a boost for existing businesses which have been at the backbone of the town’s economy for many years.

Work is also continuing to purchase a strip of land between the Irish Street car park and the rear of the former police base which is required to deliver the new retail and commercial centre.

A council spokeswoman confirmed that the local authority has agreed to carry out a development brief on the Irish Street site which includes adjacent lands it owns.

“The development brief is currently being worked up and will be advertised, inviting third parties to come forward with viable proposals for the site that will result in sustainable regeneration in Downpatrick town centre,” she said.

The spokeswoman also confirmed that a suggested road through the former police station site linking Irish Street with St Patrick’s Avenue will not be built based on a number of appraisals which have been completed.