Newry.ie

A Motion calling for funding to ensure that the proposed Albert Basin Park proceeds was dismissed at tonights monthly meeting of Newry, Mourne and Down Council. The motion had been put forward by Newry City Councillor, Cllr Gavin Malone.

Council Chairperson Cllr Laura Devlin refused to hear the motion citing Standing Orders, specifically that the motion was "considered unlawful or improper"

The proposed park site at the Albert Basin in Newry. Photograph: Columba O'Hare
The proposed park site at the Albert Basin in Newry. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

In her explanation Cllr Devlin stated the item was discussed at November's SP&R meeting and ratified at the meeting tonight. "The corporate position of this council is that we are proceeding with a 15 acre city park on the Albert Basin site. Like any major project in this council a Project Board is formed and a budget is then set."

The Meeting Chairperson continued "The first meeting of this board is scheduled for January 2021. As such I have ruled under Standing Order 16.1 Part Two that this motion will not be heard tonight as the 15 acre city park on the Albert Basin is the already agreed position of this council as progressing through the standard council channels and that's my ruling." With that the December Council Meeting was wrapped up!

Standing Order 16.1: 2 states "A motion shall be rejected if the wording or nature of the motion is considered unlawful or improper."

Unprecedented Move

Councillor Patrick Brown who was due to second the motion spoke of the Chairperson's ruling as an "unprecedented move" The Rowallane Councillor said "Unfortunately, despite a motion in support of the park being accepted within the deadline for submission by the chair of council, and proposers being given prior notice that it would be heard at full council, the chair rejected the motion at the last minute, ensuring it would not be heard. This is an unprecedented move and I will be seeking clarity around the standing orders used. Brief reference was made to the fact the park was already discussed at a committee in November so there was no point in hearing the motion. However, this meeting in November made no commitment regarding establishing the park as Newry’s number one development project or committing funds in this financial year. Something which is crucial if we want to see a park delivered in this council term."

Tonights motion asked the Council to recognise that a city park is the number 1 regeneration priority for Newry and called for the council to allocate sufficient capital funding in this years rates process to enable the project to be delivered within this Council term.

Claiming the decision was a party political move the Rowallane representative said "Sadly, this seems to be an entirely party political move by the SDLP, who three years ago joined me in opposing similar moves by the then Sinn Fein chair to defer the original park motion to an obscure subcommittee. It seems that three years on, the party holding the chair may have changed, but the attitude towards the park amongst the establishment parties of council has not. It is an elitist attitude of making decisions behind closed doors, rejecting transparency and telling people that ‘Councillors know better."

Cllr Brown concluded "This was a motion written by community activists Newry 2020 and all parties had a chance to sign it. I would like to thank Newry 2020 for their continued and resolute commitment to this park, despite the sometimes lukewarm attitude of the larger parties on council. I hope that despite not being heard for political reasons, this motion has now focused minds around getting the necessary funding delivered through the relevant project board. But when that funding comes, it will be not thanks to any one councillor or political party. And no amount of gaslighting and hiding behind bureaucratic processes will change that. It will be thanks to the community activists and people in the wider Newry area who first got the park on the agenda and have selflessly kept the pressure on for the last 3 years to get it delivered."

Earlier in tonights agenda Councillors adopted the minutes from the November Strategy, Policy and Resources Committee Meeting that agreed to make the Park project part of the Newry City Centre Regeneration Scheme and discontinue the Albert Basin Task and Finish Group.

Party Political Broadcast

Newry City Councillor Michael Savage spoke at length on the Park with Cllr Barra Ó Muirí and Roisin Mulgrew unhappy that the Chairperson allowed him to do so. Referring to Cllr Savage's comments Cllr Mulgrew said "It's very disappointing that when we have this item for discussion that someone is effectively allowed to come in and hold a party political broadcast on the item."

In his talk Councillor Savage said: "Tonight marks the third anniversary of this Council’s commitment to deliver a 15 acre park on the Albert Basin site in Newry. Tonight also marks a momentous decision by this Council to move this project from the proposal stage to the delivery stage.

"The Albert Basin Task and Finish Working Group which included Newry 2020 and other great local organisations within our community carried out the work with local councillors and officials, work that was at times frustratingly slow, that has progressed this proposal to the stage where tonight The Albert Basin 15 Acre Park will be formalised into a Strategic Project of the Council with the agreed Governance Structures to oversee its delivery as one of the key stategic projects within the Newry City Regeneration Scheme."

Project Board will be set up

Cllr Savage continued "The Albert Basin Project Board following tonight’s approval of the SP&R Minutes of November 12th will now be set up and will meet in January to appoint the Design Team, sign off on the Business Case from the appointed Economists and agree the budget for the delivery of Phase One of the Park within this Council Term as was agreed following a SDLP proposal to carry out the capping, greening and securing of the site as well as the development of a state of the art Regional Play Park.

Councillor Savage said that the 2021 rates process will include the budget for phase one of the park "That budget will be included in the 2021 rates process in order to ensure delivery of Phase One within this Council term as per what is now a corporate decision of this Council."

The Newry City Councillor added "Since the findings of the excellent and extensive Public Consultation on the Park were adopted by this Council, over the last three months the SDLP has moved this Project through the Council to ensure that the proposal became a strategic project and Chair I would like to pay tribute to the tenacity of my colleague and friend Cllr Gary Stokes who has championed this project from it was first muted many years ago.

"We now need to allow the Project Board and the Design team to get on with the job and deliver Phase One in this Council term."



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