Major retail centre planned by council

Major retail centre planned by council

6 December 2017

DOWNPATRICK is in line for a multi-million pound town centre regeneration.

Plans to redevelop the former Irish Street police station and a number of adjacent empty properties are being drawn up to provide a new retail and commercial centre.

The Department of Communities hopes to acquire the site within the next few months and is working alongside Newry, Mourne and Down Council to help bring new investment to the town.

Details of the project, which kills off plans for a new road through the former police base linking Irish Street and St Patrick’s Avenue, will be discussed by local politicians next week.

The Recorder understands the plan is to demolish vacant buildings to open up a huge area at the rear of the former police station, with the proposed development site also including the Irish Street car park.

The local council, which owns the car park, is making provision in its budget to purchase a strip of land bordering the rear of the police base to ensure the ambitious regeneration plan can be delivered. No parking spaces will be lost as a result of the investment initiative.

The news comes just weeks after leading retailers, Marks and Spencer and Home Bargains, revealed they are keen to come to Downpatrick but cannot find suitable accommodation.

Department of Communities officials and senior council staff plan to draw up a development brief which will be published next year to encourage developers to come forward and redevelop the Irish Street site.

It is understood there is an urgency to acquire the Irish Street properties as soon as possible to help kick-start the regeneration initiative. Representatives from the government department and local authority have been working on the proposal for several months and consultants recently completed work on the feasibility of the scheme.

The proposed regeneration project is due to be discussed by members of Newry, Mourne and Down Council’s Enterprise, Regeneration and Tourism Committee next Monday night, and three of its members, councillors Dermot Curran, Garth Craig and Willie Clarke, are excited about its potential.

Councillor Curran said the proposal has the potential to provide Downpatrick with a “substantial economic boost” and create much-needed retail space to satisfy the demands of leading brands including Marks and Spencer and other High Street retailers looking to invest in the town.

He added: “This news is a massive pre-Christmas boost for Downpatrick. The prospect of a major regeneration project offers major new potential and development opportunities.”

Councillor Clarke said the proposal will act as an “economic stimulus” and is keen for those involved to press ahead with the ambitious plan to regenerate not only Irish Street, but Downpatrick town centre.

“Any proposals designed to provide an economic stimulus are to be welcomed. The Irish Street site is huge and I have no doubt we will soon be seeing the detail of imaginative proposals for its redevelopment,” he said.

Councillor Craig said he looks forward to studying the detail of the ambitious regeneration proposal which he hopes can attract additional investment and jobs to Downpatrick, adding: “Any proposal which has the potential to regenerate our town centres has to be welcomed. I am interested to hear more about this proposal at next week’s meeting.”

However, Downpatrick councillor Cadogan Enright was critical of the way council officials are handling the redevelopment plan, claiming elected representatives are being kept “completely in the dark.”