Wheels in motion to advance Irish Street redevelopment plan

Wheels in motion to advance Irish Street redevelopment plan

15 August 2018

WORK on a new multi-million pound town centre regeneration initiative in Downpatrick could start in 2020.

Plans to redevelop the former Irish Street police station site and a number of adjacent empty properties to provide a major retail and commercial centre were unveiled last year.

The Department of Communities purchased the former police base and a significant portion of land at the rear last March to pave the way for the new development which will include the Irish Street car park.

The government department is working alongside Newry, Mourne and Down Council which is keen to bring new 

investment to the town to create new jobs and hopes increased footfall will provide a boost for existing businesses.

Ambitious proposals to provide a new retail centre effectively kills off plans for a new £3m road through the former police base linking Irish Street and St Patrick’s Avenue which roads officials have admitted will make little difference to town centre traffic flow.

It was confirmed this week that councillors are to meet with roads officials as part of a series of recommendations to advance the Irish Street regeneration scheme, which includes consulting existing business owners in the town.

A development brief is to be drawn up to encourage developers to come forward and redevelop the sprawling site and it is hoped a firm will be appointed by December next year, assuming no major issues arise.

At a meeting of the local authority’s Economic, Regeneration and Tourism Committee on Monday, it was revealed that council staff will be liaising with officials from a number of relevant government departments about the Irish Street scheme, given the protected status the former police base enjoys.

Council officials are determined to deliver a major regeneration scheme in Downpatrick town centre and are excited at the development potential the Irish Street offers. 

They are also acutely aware leading brands including Marks and Spencer and Home Bargains, along with several other big names, have expressed an interest in investing in Downpatrick, but cannot identify suitable accommodation.

Cllr Dermot Curran has welcomed the decision to engage with business owners as part of the regeneration initiative which he believes has the potential to act as a catalyst to encourage future economic investment.

He said council officers are working with leading retailers interested in investing in Downpatrick and hopes the talks will have a positive outcome.

“It is really important traders are asked for their views about the Irish Street scheme which can provide everyone in business in Downpatrick with a boost,” he continued. “I would appeal to those in business to engage in this process so we can all move forward together on this project. Everyone has to play their part.

“Local businesses have been at the backbone of Downpatrick’s economy for many decades and it is important they are consulted about the Irish Street proposal which I believe offers exciting opportunities.”

Cllr Curran also hopes that the town can soon have its own dedicated organisation to provide those in business with a voice. He said this has been “sadly lacking” over recent years.

“When entrepreneurs arrive in a town one of the first things they often ask to do is meet with the local traders’ organisation. That is not possible at the moment and is something that I hope will change,” he said.

Cllr Curran added: “Some people have an appetite for such an organisation and while there are those lukewarm to the establishment of a new business forum, a leading county town like Downpatrick should have one.”