Levelling up fund could be key for Dunleath Park

Levelling up fund could be key for Dunleath Park

29 June 2022

MONEY from the government’s near £5bn levelling up fund could be secured to help finance the ambitious transformation of Downpatrick’s Dunleath Park.

Newry, Mourne and Down Council is to make a bid for a slice of the huge funding cake which has already paid out £1.7bn to finance 105 projects across the UK.

Plans have been drawn up for a new skateboard park and so-called pump track for cyclists at Dunleath Park where the current shale sports pitch is to be transformed and turned into an ultra-modern 3G facility.

A new 7.km walking track around the perimeter of the park has been a huge success since it opened and currently hosts a Parkrun event every Saturday morning which is also growing in popularity.

Parts of Dunleath Park — which includes a number of sports pitches and is used extensively by the Downpatrick Youth Football League and other sports clubs —  is located on a flood plain at the Ballydugan Road, but assurances have been given that this will not have a major impact on the ambitious development plan.

Senior council officials have already met with the Rivers Agency to discuss the blueprint for the future and it has been confirmed this week that separate planning applications will be lodged for the planned skateboard park, pump track and new 3G pitch at Dunleath which borders Thomas Russell Park and the Ballydugan Road industrial estate and stretches as far back as housing developments at the Vianstown Road.

While politicians admit that not everything will be possible at Dunleath, they are keen to see the park’s development potential fully exploited and are working feverishly to ensure this happens.

They want the local authority to play a crucial role in helping revitalise the facility and make it one of the organisation’s top priorities.

Councillors believe that the huge town centre area offers significant development potential and that investment can help breathe new life back into Dunleath and develop local sports and recreational facilities for the people across Downpatrick and Lecale.

In addition, they insist that the importance of Dunleath cannot be understated and while the facility has been at the heart of sports provision for several decades, it has suffered from a lack of significant underinvestment.

A working group has also been established to help oversee the park’s development, with Downpatrick councillor, Gareth Sharvin, believing that the Levelling Up Fund has the opportunity to benefit Dunleath and help fund essential parts of the redevelopment project.

He said he was delighted to meet recently with senior council officials and SDLP colleagues to discuss the funding required for the next steps of the Dunleath development.

“While the skateboard park and pump track have been given the green light by the council to proceed, there are a few last hurdles that need to be cleared to deliver these elements of the new sporting hub at Dunleath,” explained Cllr Sharvin.

“We need to secure planning approved for them. While flooding has been an issue at Dunleath, the very positive news is that each element of the development proposal will have its own planning application.”

Cllr Sharvin explained that this should make the planning process easier for the skateboard park and pump track proposals in particular. In addition, he revealed that the upgrade of the shale pitch to 3G will help support displaced water at the sports pitches.

“In terms of funding, it is great news that the local council will be able to seek financial support

under the Levelling Up Fund,” he continued.

“While people may be wondering what the timescales are for this process, I understand all applications must be made by July 6, so the public can be assured that we are trying to deliver this next stage of Dunleath Park as quickly as possible,” he said.

Cllr Sharvin added: “The SDLP has led on this project and will continue to do so.  This has the potential to be a real draw for Downpatrick and help us champion the town as a major location for all manner of sporting activities and contribute to rebalancing the agenda across Newry, Mourne and Down District.”