Concerns over progress at Newcastle redevelopments

Concerns over progress at Newcastle redevelopments

12 January 2022

LOCAL councillors have urged Newry, Mourne and Down Council officials to keep them informed on projects for two of Newcastle’s most used tourist sites.

Concern has been raised over a new £250,000 extension to Donard car park and future development plans for the historic Rock Pool. 

At Monday’s council meeting, Cllr Laura Devlin expressed concern that the 176 space car park would not be ready for Easter as it had yet to go through the council’s planning committee.

She said: “Obviously, I welcome all of the progress on this much-needed scheme to date, something we have been working on for some time, but I note that the application doesn’t appear to be on the planning agenda for this week.

“How will this impact the project? I am so conscious of the need to have the construction work completed and wrapped up pre-Easter.”

Michael Lipsett, the council’s Director of Active and Healthy Communities, assured councillors that despite the application not being on the agenda, the project was on target for completion.

Cllr Delvin stressed that time was off the essence for the car park extension to be ready.

“This  is a vital project for the town,” said the Mournes councillor.

“We know how busy the town is all year round but from Easter onwards, the pressures and demand for parking sky rockets.

“Between people walking the mountains and those then visiting the town itself, Its extremely busy. This project has been approved, the funding is there and contractor is ready to go so it’s vital that the planning application is approved and soon.”

Her concerns was shared by Mournes Councillor Willie Clarke, who said that the car-park extension was as much needed by local people as tourists and visitors.

He and Cllrs Devlin and Glyn Hanna also impressed on the council of the need to move ahead with reports on the Rock Pool.

At December’s Active Healthy and Communities Committee, a report came forward with a number of options for the pool and its future. 

The report — which was not discussed in public — was based on the level of structural and mechanical and engineering work that would be required while councillors have been told “significant works” is needed to save the Rock Pool.

The committee supported the officer’s recommendation to move the project on council will now commence formal engagement with the relevant statutory organisations in advance of progressing a full business case and detailed feasibility options.

Cllr Clarke said that any delays to the business case for the Rock Pool were not helpful and urged that the need to maintain the pool for Newcastle could not be more timely.

“This is a unique, authentic and precious attraction for the people of Newcastle which has been used since 1933. There has been an increase in cold water swimming and the Rock Pool could provide an essential resource for training.”

Cllr Devlin said: “This is an issue which is very close to my heart. Every month of delay increases the chances of a part of Newcastle’s history being washed away into the sea.”

Councillor Hanna emphasised the need for the council to be realistic about what it will cost for the Rock Pool project and to ensure that local groups are consulted on what they will like to see for the venue.