Site picked for new resort leisure centre

Site picked for new resort leisure centre

19 September 2012 - by BY DAVID TELFORD

DOWN Council hopes work can start soon on the design of Newcastle’s new £7.5m leisure complex.

The site for the multi-million pound development at Donard Park was agreed by politicians last week and the local authority hopes to appoint consultants shortly to work on its detailed design.

Consultants will also be tasked with drawing up the business case to help council officials secure planning permission and draw down the finance to allow construction work to start.

Local politicians want to see work started on the new leisure complex as soon as possible and last week finally agreed the location of the facility which will be built on the site of an existing soccer pitch which runs parallel with the main car park.

It is currently used by Newcastle FC and talks are underway to provide the soccer club with an alternative base in the town.

Councillors were becoming increasingly uncomfortable that plans for a new leisure complex in the resort weren’t progressing as quickly as they had hoped after years of discussion and public debate.

With Down Council due to merge with its neighbour in Newry and Mourne in three years’ time, politicians want the Newcastle project on the ground as soon as possible.

Council Director, Mr. Michael Lipsett, said a number of different locations within Donard Park were examined as potential bases for the new leisure centre.

At a meeting of the Recreation and Community Services Committee councillor Willie Clarke said the issue of a new leisure centre in the resort has been “well rehearsed and debated over many years” and suggested if the local authority didn’t move quickly, it would not be able to deliver the scheme.

“The South Eastern Trust is keen to include a health and well-being centre in the new complex and progress this issue. As we progress our new centre we should meet with the Trust to help it advance its plans,” he added.

Councillor Patrick Clarke said “time is of the essence” and warned the current Newcastle Centre which the new multi-million pound building will replace is “not fit for purpose.”

“The fact Newcastle does not have an all-inclusive leisure and sports complex is a major disadvantage to the town. Millions of pounds have already been invested in the resort and it’s important the new leisure complex is provided as quickly as possible,” he added.

Councillor Carmel O’Boyle said Newcastle’s new leisure complex has been a “long time coming” and suggested there’s no reason why people who previously objected to a new velodrome being built in Donard Park would oppose the new leisure centre.

She highlighted the need to accommodate local bowlers in the new centre and make people aware of its design and not provide them with a fait accompli.

Councillor Eamonn O’Neill welcomed assurances that work undertaken by the Newcastle 2000 group on the provision of a new leisure centre in the resort will feature heavily in the council’s design of the proposed complex.

“This group did a lot of innovative work and it was involved in exhaustive consultations with the public and there were no objections to this particular site.

As we move forward it’s essential the people of Newcastle know exactly what’s going on at every stage of the process,” he added.

Councillor Stephen Burns believes the new leisure complex will be a “serious tourism driver” for Newcastle and highlighted the need for everyone to push forward to deliver the new complex.