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Newry City Councillors Gary Stokes and Michael Savage have backed plans for a £20 million regeneration scheme for the city saying that it will have a "hugely positive impact on the future of Newry and its people."

Speaking after the Council's SP&R Committee backed recommendations to develop a 4,500 square metre Civic Centre at Abbey Way and a £7 million Theatre and Conference Centre to the side and rear of the Town Hall, Councillor Gary Stokes said: "Like others I had initial reservations about the Civic Centre proposals and its location, but having seen the presentation, I and my party colleagues are content that all site options have been exhausted, plans are in place to build a new multi-storey car park in North Street to deal with any potential parking displacement concerns and most importantly this scheme will act as a catalyst for urban regeneration in our city.

"The proposal will bring much needed footfall into the city centre and has the potential to open up the whole area around our magnificent Cathedral and develop a Cathedral Square or Plaza in the city that has our city’s most striking building as its centrepiece. We believe these proposals will have a hugely positive impact on the future of Newry and its people.

"This was never about building a new home for the Council it was about using the opportunities that come with the City Deal to redevelop and regenerate the city centre and attract inward investment.

“We believe this proposal is the best option available to us to do that and our party (SDLP) will be supporting the proposals at the monthly meeting in September.

"It is important to note that this is early days and it is imperative that we consult with the ratepayers, businesses and residents every step of the way as the detail of the project comes to life over the coming months."

Councillors Michael Savage and Gary Stokes.
Councillors Michael Savage and Gary Stokes.

Speaking about the new Theatre and Conference centre at the Town Hall/ Sean Hollywood Arts Centre site, Cllr Michael Savage added "We needed to take a bold step and this proposal wraps a new state of the art 21st century facility around the Town Hall and it puts a modern building up against the old historic building, which has become a design thread that is evident in all major cities across Europe.

“The proposal brings our waterways into play through the construction of an outdoor performance area that backs on to Newry Canal. The rear of the former Ross Thompson site is south facing so it lends itself to outdoor events, galleries and cafes etc that overlook Newry Canal. It also offers the opportunity to link it to Monaghan Street and our expanding hospitality and night-time economy."

Concluding Cllr Savage added “We now get down to the detail of the design and go through the process of reaching out and consulting with the arts sector to ensure that what we build and develop on the site becomes a jewel in the crown for the city that is recognised throughout these islands. We want to see the number of seats in the theatre increased to meet demand in the sector and that is something that we hope to resolve through the discussions that lie ahead.

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