Newcastle centre gets green light

Newcastle centre gets green light

9 October 2019

PLANS for a new multi-million pound leisure centre in Newcastle are due to be confirmed by the end of the year.

Following the completion of a detailed feasibility study — which looked at a number of potential locations — the Newcastle Centre site in the heart of the resort has emerged as the firm favourite to house the new facility.

Proposals are set to be worked up to build a new complex at the rear of the Main Street building with the current Tropicana outdoor pool bulldozed and replaced with an indoor facility in the proposed new build.

Redeveloping the existing Newcastle Centre which forms part of the Annesley Buildings has been ruled out due to the scale of the costs involved and the fact that it cannot accommodate the needs of local people due to the size of its rooms.

It’s understood that the planned new-build will be larger than the current centre which is a listed building and poses major problems for the council in transforming it into an energy efficient facility which meets current building regulations and standards.

Plans to redevelop the Main Street site, which council officials insist will not impact on part of the promenade at the rear, are expected to be outlined at a meeting of Newry, Mourne and Down Council’s Active and Healthy Communities Committee in December.

Senior council officials insist that the Newcastle  project is a priority and that there will be detailed public consultation on the way forward.

In addition, they are keen to ensue that funding is included in next year’s rates estimates to allow consultants to be appointed to design the planned new centre which is a key component of the council’s corporate plan.

Senior council officials say that they recognise that as one of Northern Ireland’s premier tourist resorts, Newcastle does not have a modern indoor leisure facility which has been its Achilles heel for some considerable time.

Two sites were previously identified for a new leisure centre in the resort, with sports pitches at Donard Park the preferred option.

However, councillors subsequently switched attention to the former St Mary’s Girls’ Primary School campus at Shanslieve Drive.

Despite a number of attempts to secure the site and hopes that a deal could be agreed with local church officials, it was bought by supermarket giant Lidl.

Politicians are keen for the local authority to take the lead and ensure that a high class leisure facility, which has been talked about in the resort for decades, is finally delivered. 

Confirmation that the development of a new leisure centre was back on the agenda was exclusively revealed by the Recorder in November last year. 

At the time, it was suggested that plans for additional sports facilities being developed by Shimna Integrated College in nearby Donard Park could be used to provide the resort’s new leisure centre. 

Part of a proposed new gateway centre to house a gondola ride into the heart of the Mournes was also touted as a base for a new leisure centre, but both these options have been ruled out as a result of the feasibility study. 

Mournes councillor Willie Clarke said he was keen to see the detail of the study, highlighting the importance of modern new indoor leisure provision in Newcastle which contains pool provision.

“The provision of a modern leisure provision in the heart of Newcastle is long overdue. The key issue we have to address is the presence of a wet weather centre in the resort which I would suggest includes a fun-type family pool,” he said.

“I believe that alongside this there needs to be a few swimming lanes to accommodate the needs of local people who have not had access to modern leisure facilities for some considerable time.”

Cllr Clarke said this issue needed to be flagged up as part of the consultation process on the way forward.

He said it was important that elected representatives highlighted the needs of local people during the process.

“We are talking about a once in a generation opportunity to deliver a modern leisure facility in Newcastle and we will not be settling for less. The location is good and while there may be issues with parking, these are not insurmountable.

“We are talking about a complete new build which will maximise the large area of space at the rear of the existing centre and I would be keen to see a high quality design, comprising wood and glass, he said.

Cllr Clarke added: “I would like to see an eco-friendly building, which is both sustainable and carbon neutral.”