From the pages of the Down Recorder, March 30, 1994

From the pages of the Down Recorder, March 30, 1994

27 March 2024

DOWNPATRICK – Downpatrick could have a new hospital by 1998, but it may be the turn of the century before it can open its doors for business.

The cost of such a new facility has still to be worked out accurately but early estimates suggest the building could cost between £12m and £15m.

And following yesterday’s announcement by the Province’s Health Minister that she is committed in principle to a capital investment at the Downshire site, the ball is now firmly in the court of the Down and Lisburn Trust.

During an hour-long press conference in Dundonald House Baroness Jean Denton confirmed basic acute services will continue to be provided in Downpatrick, provided the Trust meets an earlier commitment given to the Department.

The minister wants to be sure suitable arrangements to maintain clinical standards by sharing staff with the Lagan Valley hospital are met.

“In these circumstances, I am prepared to agree in principle to capital investment at the Downshire site in Downpatrick.

No timescale for the release of funds has yet been worked out, but over the next few months the Trust will be putting the final touches to a detailed business plan.

BALLYNAHINCH – A Ballynahinch businessman has this week hit out at the new layout of the town’s Main Street and claims his business will suffer as a result.

Mr Bobby Caughey, who has been trading in the town for over 30 years, says he is not opposed to the new traffic management scheme which is due to become fully operational shortly, but wants it amended.

He has made an eleventh hour plea to senior Department of Environment chiefs to modify the layout outside his garage which is one of the town’s best known landmarks.

Mr Caught is angry that despite several onsite meetings with senior Roads Service officials and RUC Traffic Branch chiefs, his concerns appear to have been ignored.

He is concerned that a new kerb laying scheme will make it difficult for several cars to pull off the road for petrol at any one time and his views have received support from other businessmen in the immediate area.

A  number of traders in the town are also concerned that the DoE is to locate pelican crossings close to several new roundabouts which are being constructed at present.

But it’s the effect the kerb laying scheme will have on his business which concerns him most. 

“The kerbs have reduced the amount of space outside my garage and it will be difficult to accommodate a number of customers at the one time,” he said, pointing to the road’s new lay-out.

BALLYDUGAN – Downpatrick police have launched a major hunt for a professional gang of burglars who stole antique furniture valued at £20,000 from Ballydugan House last week.

Detectives investigating the raid have issued an urgent appeal to all antique dealers in the area to report to them if they are offered furniture for sale at lower than usual prices.

All dealers have been circulated with a detailed list of the stolen items, but police believe the goods may have already been smuggled across the border, or transported to mainland Britain for distribution.

It is also possible the stolen furniture could have found its way to the continent and Interpol chiefs are also to be circulated with a copy of the missing items.

Police are also working on the theory that a number of men were involved in the burglary and they made their getaway in a lorry or boxed-van typed vehicle.

Ballydugan House was targeted during the early hours of last Wednesday morning when a number of men forced their way into the house under the cover of darkness.

The owner was at home at the time but was not disturbed as the gang searched the house, removing a selection of collector’s items, worth an estimated £20,000.

NEWCASTLE – A professional gang is being blamed for stealing a substantial amount of money in a daring early morning raid on an amusement arcade in Newcastle last week.

Joyland Amusements, which is situated at the town’s Main Street, was targeted shortly after midnight last Wednesday, when a number of men forced their way into the the premises.

Armed with sledgehammers and bolt cutters, they spent the next five hours forcing open gaming machines and smashing slot machines, and they also forced their way into the coin boxes of electronic games.

A number of machines containing hundreds of pounds worth of change were also smashed open as the raiders ploughed their way through the arcade. 

The damage caused has been estimated at around £10,000 and police investigating the robbery believe the gang may be from the Belfast area and made their escape via Castle Park and Shimna Road.

They also believe a number of men were involved in the raid because of the amount of damage caused to the arcade and the amount of coins which were stolen.

Joyland manager, Mr Robin Priestly, said the scene which greeted him on Thursday morning was one of “total devastation.”

“The premises were cleared by the raiders who much have been in the place for about five or six hours. Nothing was left unscathed they went through the place and smashed opening every thing in sight.”

STRANGFORD – The Strangford Lough Management Committee has moved to quell the concerns of fishermen on the lough who fear that new restrictions will pose a threat to their livelihood.

The committee says that its plan to restrict commercial fishing activities to certain parts of the lough is “not an anti-fishing document but an attempt to encourage the best way forward in relation to the environment of Strangford Lough and its use as a commercial fishery.”

In a detailed response to fishermen’s fears, Strangford Lough Officer, Mr Billy Reid admits that the long-term aim of the committee is the banning of trawling and dredging in the lough.

“The committee sees this as a valid aim, giving that these are methods involving pulling nets and dredges over the sea bed, thus damaging or removing other animals and plants living in the community with the commercial species, and that the size and value of these fisheries in the lough are minimal in terms of the overall Northern Ireland commercial fishery,” he said.

ARDGLASS –  A local councillor has this week urged Department of Environment chiefs to order members of the travelling community to clean up after them when they vacate areas  of Down District.

The plea has been issued by Mr Dermot Curran, who said he is “disgusted” by the mess left by a group of travellers who spent a few days on the outskirts of Ardglass last week.

After settling up home at the main crossroads outside the village, the travellers moved to the Market Street car park in Downpatrick where they are still based.

An angry Mr Curran said Down Council already spends over £500,000 a year on keeping the area clean and explained the figure represents quite a proportion of the district rate.

“A number of people have complained about the state of the Crew Road crossroads where the travellers set up home,” he revealed pointing out that last August, the travellers  descended upon two areas of the village, both of which have since been closed off.

“I have nothing against the travelling people but I would take issue with them about the state of some places where they have set up home in the district in the past,” he continued.