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Today is three years to the day since a motion, promising a 15 Acre Park at the Albert Basin in Newry, was passed unanimously by councillor's at the November meeting of Newry, Mourne and Down Council's, Strategy, Policy and Resources meeting (16/11/2017).

Despite fierce optimism from those there on that cold winter's night in 2017 work at the site still shows no sign of commencing and no funds are yet in place to advance the project.

16th November 2017 at Council meeting in Downpatrick
Celebrating the passing of the Albert Basin Park motion, 16th November 2017 at Council meeting in Downpatrick

At last Thursday's monthly meeting of the Council's SP&R committee, Councillor's made the decision that the Park project is to become part of the Newry City Centre Regeneration Scheme. It was part of an in-committee discussion on the proposed Park's governance structures. (Press and Public were excluded)

Following discussions Councillor Gareth Sharvin, SP&R Committee Chair, said the "15 Acre city park project at the Albert Basin in Newry becomes part of the Newry City Centre Regeneration scheme project and associated governance arrangements as per Appendix 1"

Cllr Sharvin further announced "The Albert Basin Task and Finish Working Group being discontinued and the project progressed as per the above point one recommendation" and "The Stakeholder forum for the Albert Basin will continue to meet as required"

Several community groups were part of the Task and Finish Group and it's now uncertain if they will be part of the new structure.

Newry 2020, the lobbying group behind the park campaign were one of the groups in the Task and Finish Working Group and while welcoming the park being made a core element of the city regeneration they were concerned that the Working group wasn't consulted on the new structures.

Brian Cleland, Chairman, Newry 2020 said "Newry 2020 welcome the council's recognition of the park as a core element of the Newry City Centre Regeneration, but we are concerned that there has been no consultation with the Working Group on the new structures. In particular, it is not yet clear how community groups will be represented on the new Project Board."

Mr Cleland added "It is also unclear whether any money has been allocated to allow the project, or whether it will be the only element of the Regeneration Plan without proper capital funding. We look forward to finding out more details at the next Working Group meeting on the 19th November, and we will be sure to share any relevant information with the public."

Council have publicly committed £21M to the Newry City Centre Regeneration Scheme including £12M for a Theatre Conference facility and £9M for a Civic Centre. it is hoped that Belfast Region City Deal will provide a further £8M but none of this money is allocated to the Albert Basin Park project  despite it being the most popular project in the community by far.

Commenting on the third anniversary of the historic motion Councillor Patrick Brown who brought the motion to council along with Cllr's Gary Stokes, Jarlath Tinnelly and David Taylor commenting on the delay said "3 years on from Council unanimously passing a motion in support of the Albert Basin Park Project. Yet 3 years later no work has started on the site and instead council is pressing ahead with a £30m+ spend to include unnecessary new council offices, when a park could be delivered for a fraction of that budget."

The decision take at Thursday's meeting now goes forward for ratification at the full council meeting in December.

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