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Newry City Councillor Michael Savage has spelt out his concerns regarding recently published concept proposals for the Albert Basin Park.

The proposals were shown to Councillors and stakeholder organisations at an online meeting last week.

Congratulating the design consultants on their concept designs Councillor Savage said: "I congratulate the design consultants for what is an excellent concept design that has the potential to deliver a fabulous park that reflects the wishes of the people of our district as outlined in the consultation responses. I believe the concept design captures the vision of our people for a people's park at the Albert Basin with virtually all their needs met."

The Albert Basin site. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

Explaining his concerns, namely time frame and pricing Cllr Savage said "I have two striking concerns which relate to the timelines and the costings. Firstly 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. 

"I am aware of a new Sports Village Complex being developed by ABC Council in Armagh across 45 acres and it is projected to cost around £30 million and it includes a state of the art leisure centre and football pitches. While I am not a Quantity Surveyor I feel these estimates are on the high side in the extreme and will need to be convinced through a detailed analysis of the breakdown."

 "If the capping of the site is costing £10.6 million then the site can only be developed for a park as a costing of this scale means it was never economically viable for commercial development.

Cllr Michael Savage

The Newry Councillor has raised concerns and has said he will ask for clarity on the timeline "On the issue of timelines I have raised concerns that Council has passed a proposal that I made that the capping of the site, the greening of the site, the linking of pathways and the provision of a regional play park should be included in Phase One, however the concept design has the play element in Phase 4 which is up to eight years away until it is completed. 

"This is unacceptable and contrary to what was agreed in Council and I will be asking for further clarity if this was reflected in the brief given to the design team as they appear to have gone off script on this element. I do not want the children of this city and district having to wait eight years for a regional play park."

Cllr Savage concluded "We have waited four years and had to climb many hurdles to get this far with the park project and I believe a timeline of eight years before the play element is completed is far too long and again this will also need to face scrutiny from Councillors and the Project Board in the coming months."

Council refuse to answer query contacted Newry, Mourne and Down Council to ask if the design consultants knew of the Council motion requiring Phase One (Capping and greening of site and a playpark) to be completed by the end of this Council term. A reply took over a week and an answer was refused citing a Council decision made on Monday night - 6 days after our request! "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."

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