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A full month after the present Chairperson of the Newry City Centre Regeneration Programme Board wrote to a Council Officer requesting a breakdown of the costing given for the building of the proposed Albert Basin Park in Newry, he is still waiting for that information from the Council.

A slide from the presentation showing a proposed layout for a section of the Albert Basin Park.
A slide from the Tetra Tech presentation showing a proposed layout for a section of the quoted £30.5M Park at the Albert Basin.

A figure of £30.5M was stated as the cost for the park, in a Concept Design Proposal presentation by Council employed consultants, Tetra Tech to the NCCR Programme Board members in June. A similar presentation was also held with project stakeholders of which Newry.ie is one.

The figure was widely criticised as being far too high with £10.6M of the £30.5M being used for "enabling works" before the park proper was even started. Another Stakeholder, Newry 2020 have pointed out that a much much larger park in Scotland is costing just £6M in total!

Cllr Gary Stokes

Cost Breakdown

Newry City Councillor, Cllr Gary Stokes, the present Chairperson of the Newry City Centre Regeneration Programme Board requested a breakdown of the stated £30.5M cost the day after last months NCCR board meeting, from Michael Lipsett, Director of Active and Healthy Communities, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council but to date is still waiting for a reply.  

The Programme Board is charged with making the decisions in connection with the building of the Park and several other multi million pound projects.

No Comment

Newry.ie asked the Council and officer would they like to comment on the seeming lack of communication but they declined, stating: "An independent review of the governance of the Newry City Centre Regeneration Programme was agreed by the Council’s Audit Committee on 5 July 2021. Whilst this review is ongoing there will be no further comment issued on the Programme."

Michael Lipsett

Startling

In a statement to Newry.ie earlier this month Newry City Councillor, Cllr Michael Savage also spoke of a need for a breakdown of the £30.5M cost. Cllr Savage said "the projected costs of £30.5m is startling and in particular the £10.6m just to clear and cap the site. There is an urgent need for a detailed breakdown on this so that the Project Board and Councillors can scrutinise it in detail as on the face of it this appears to be an incredible amount of money."

Puzzling

Brian Cleland, Chairperson of Newry 2020 another Project Stakeholder also formally asked for, and was promised by Council Management, a breakdown of the costings at the 30 June Stakeholder Presentation. The Council later refused the group a copy of this information on the basis of "obvious commercial sensitivities"

Mr Cleland spoke of the groups puzzlement "We've consulted with professionals in our network and have been advised that this claim of 'commercial sensitivity' doesn't stand up to scrutiny." he said, adding "It's also puzzling that management can claim ''obvious commercial sensitivities' when they had already agreed to share this information at the meeting.

"We have asked the Council to specify what they mean by "commercial sensitivities " but as yet we have not received an answer."

The 2020 Chairperson concluded "To give an idea of how outlandish the Council's cost estimates are - A park is currently being built in Winchburgh in Scotland, on a reclaimed site over 5 times bigger than the Albert Basin for 6 Million Pounds and will be completed within four years. That means the cost per acre for the Albert Basin Park is 25 times greater than a similar project in Scotland!"

Campaigners for a 15 Acre City Park at the Albert Basin in Newry managed to get unanimous support from Councillors in 2017 for a motion to build the park. Four years later, apart from a consultation virtually nothing has been done.

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