Newcastle in line for £42m tourism boost

Newcastle in line for £42m tourism boost

10 October 2018

NEWCASTLE could be set for a £42m tourism bonanza.

It is hoped that a series of innovative proposals aimed at overhauling current tourist provision and significantly increasing the number of overnight visitors to the resort will secure a cash windfall as part of the City Deal initiative.

Newry, Mourne and Down Council is hoping to secure £35m from the Northern Ireland Executive and is committing £7m of ratepayers’ money to fund highly ambitious proposals in Newcastle aimed at shaping future tourist provision in the resort which form the core of its Mourne Gateway Project.

Exciting proposals include a gondola ride into the heart of the mountains and a visitor centre at the site of the old quarry at Thomas’ Mountain. 

Other proposals include an Alpine coaster ride enabling people to hurtle down the side of the mountain on a single track in a buggy, an indoor activity centre in Donard Park, elevated tree top walk in Tollymore Forest Park and a new visitor centre and bird hide at Murlough Nature Reserve.

Consultants appointed to look at developing the resort’s visitor infrastructure also suggested constructing a new bridge under the main Kilkeel Road at the Bloody Bridge on the outskirts of the resort.

The local council is one of five local authorities paired with Belfast City Council, universities and the private sector who hope to bid for a share of a £1bn investment package to fund a series of future projects, including tourism.

The local authority and its City Deal partners have committed £100m to help deliver a raft of schemes, with the remainder of the cash coming from the Treasury and Northern Ireland Executive. It is anticipated that the City Deal initiative has the potential to help the councils create 20,000 new jobs over a 10-year period.

City deals are designed to allow councils to take charge and responsibility of decisions that affect their area, do what they think is best to help businesses grow, create economic growth and decide how public money should be spent.

They are packages of funding and decision making powers which allow councils to boost the economy through the development of large projects in their respective areas.

Newry, Mourne and Down Council officials have this week confirmed that a strategic outline business case has already been completed and the Newcastle proposals are still very much at an early stage.

At the end of this month, senior council officials head to Westminster for meetings with MPs and Treasury officials as part of the city deal lobbying process, with Chancellor Philip Hammond expected to confirm shortly during his autumn statement how much the government is prepared to commit to the deal.

It is being suggested that the Treasury could be prepared to provide £450m, with the figure matched by the NI Executive, with council officials hoping the overall city deal bid is successful and its various components will be delivered.

A council spokeswoman confirmed the Mournes Gateway Project is one of the organisation’s proposed projects for inclusion in the Belfast Region City Deal bid.

“A strategic outline case has been completed with proposed funding of £35m coming from the Northern Ireland Executive and £7m from Newry, Mourne and Down Council,” she explained.

“The exciting Gateway project includes an uplift service from Donard Park in Newcastle, a visitor centre at the Thomas’ Quarry site and an alpine toboggan ride and walking trails back down Slieve Donard.”

The spokeswoman added: “The project proposals are at an early stage and are still being developed, with the next steps involving the development of a full outline business case for the project.”