MYMY gets funds boost to help purchase Ardnabannon

MYMY gets funds boost to help purchase Ardnabannon

13 January 2021

PLANS by a local charity to purchase the former Ardnabannon outdoor pursuits centre near Castlewellan has secured a boost from the Architectural Heritage Fund.

The organisation is providing the Mind Yourself and Your Mate mental health charity with a grant to help with its plans to purchase the iconic property located in a 16 acre site near Castlewellan.

Charity officials are keen to expand their work to include education, training and fitness classes in the imposing 19th century building which was closed by education chiefs in 2018 as part of controversial cost-cutting proposals.

The Architectural Heritage Fund has provided MYMY with a so-called project viability grant which is designed to look at potential uses for a building and its current condition.

It was revealed just before Christmas that the Department of Education had decided not to dispose of the building through the so-called community asset transfer process and place it on the open market.

Stormont education minister Peter Weir ruled that given the current economic circumstances there was no certainty that the MYMY’s business case to purchase the site would be approved or that funding would materialise to underpin the charity’s bid.

However, charity officials have remained in contact with education chiefs in a bid to overturn the decision to place the site on the open market and are hoping to hear something positive in the near future about their plans for the location.

As officials wait on a response from the Department of Education, they hope that if everything falls into 

place they could to be on site this year, with full development of the the site taking between five and 10 years to complete.

MYMY representatives have already discussed their future plans for the iconic building with  Stormont finance minister Conor Murphy and his Department of Communities counterpart Caral Ní Chuilín.

Charity director Raymond Cunningham says he is pleased with the support from the Architectural Heritage Fund and backing from the local community, describing the positive response to the Ardnabannon proposal as “overwhelming”.

He explained that the project viability grant permits the charity to carry out a so-called social return investment which will allow it and the community to see the impact of the work that it is currently doing and what is planned for the Ardnabannon site.

“The grant will allow us allow us to develop our plan further for the site and is a big stepping stone,” he continued. “Our proposal is to purchase the entire site and carry out required renovation work over a five-year period.”

Mr Cunningham said a “cocktail of funding” will be required to develop the site and is pleased with the positive feedback for the proposal to date.

“The response to our plan has been brilliant and overwhelming,” the director continued.

“There have been a number of recent newspaper articles about our proposal and we have also posted details online and the response to these has been phenomenal.”

Mr Cunningham said the time was right for the organisation to expand, explaining the development proposal will bring vibrancy back into people’s health and allow MYMY to take a much broader approach to mental health in particular.

He said the Ardnabannon project will allow MYMY to provide an array of services, including daily yoga meditation and exercise classes.

“We will also be focusing on horticulture and will continue our current work with adults but expand this to include children and families. 

“A lot of the focus will be nature-based and getting outdoors. Ardnabannon is the ideal location for this with the Mournes looking down on you and the sea on on the other side. The site really lends itself to what we are planning to do,” added Mr Cunningham.

Local politicians say they are fully supportive of MYMY’s proposal for the Ardnabannon site and are keen to see the former outdoor education centre redeveloped for community use.

They also appreciate the work the charity carries out across the district and are in no doubt that the current education property and surrounding land can be fully utilised for the good of the community if MYMY is allowed to proceed with its proposal.