At last Newry is tantalisingly close to having a world class city park for all, following the historic passing of a motion, with total cross party support, at tonights Strategic Policy and Resources council meeting.

Speaking after the motion was passed Colette Ruddy from the Albert Basin Park Campaign said "We're absolutely delighted that all the councillors have voted for the motion for a 15 acre park at the Albert Basin, with no discenting voices, and we are delighted that the council have listened to the will of the people."

The motion calling for a 15 acre city park at the Albert Basin in Newry commits the council to delivering a park in parallel with other capital works projects in Newry within the next council term. It now goes to the full council meeting in December for ratification and within three months a task and finish group consisting of elected members, community representatives and a dedicated council officer should be set up.

The motion was originally put to the full council meeting in October but wasn't debated and instead referred directly to a working group.

Councillors at the monthly SPR meeting at Downpatrick Civic Centre took it in turns to add their support to the project. Committee Chair Cllr Terry Hearty allowed both committee members as well as the proposers of the motion to speak.

Campaigners and councillors at Downpatrick Civic Centre for the historic vote. (Note some councillors are missing as the meeting was still on-going) Photograph: Ryan Sands
Campaigners and councillors at Downpatrick Civic Centre for the historic vote. (Note some councillors are missing as the meeting was still on-going) Photograph: Ryan Sands

Cllr Declan McAteer made the point that "Newry lacks a vocal point and a real heartbeat" and Albert Basin would be the ideal location for a creative place.

Cllr Davy Hyland spoke of Newry becoming a city in 2001 which at the time posed many opportunities and rewards. He noted that there were plenty of good parks in the area but not in Newry. He complimented the campaigners in the public gallery adding that hopefully the park will realise dreams.

Cllr William Walker said he could support the motion as presented but that he was "Really disappointed that this item has been used as a political football in this council" and that "The good people of Newry wanting to see this followed through deserve better." Cllr Walker added that it would enhance Newry and working with this group, council can achieve it.

Cllr Gary Stokes one of the presenters of the motion welcomed the support of Cllr Walker and the DUP for the park, making the point that years ago you could have walked the fields which you can't now, hence why we need large central spaces for our young people and citizens.

Travelling to Downpatrick for the meeting members of Newry 2020, Albert Basin Park Project, IWAI Newry and Portadown and Newry Maritime Association who have all tirelessly campaigned for the park listened to another motion presenter, Cllr Jarlath Tinnelly saying that the physical and mental health benefits are without question adding that the park would be a "Traffic free oasis in the city centre" and that no money or value could be attached to that. The councillor referring to the Albert Basin being gifted to the people of Newry in 1986 concluded "We are but the keepers of the flame handed to council thirty years ago" before expressing his and the Independent groupings full support of the motion.

A world class 15 acre park at the Albert Basin in Newry is what it is all about!
A world class 15 acre park at the Albert Basin in Newry is what it is all about!

Cllr Patrick Brown the third motion presenter  thanked the members of the public present, pointed out that passing of the motion commits the council to a full 15 acre park and said the councillors must approach the project with an open mind. The councillor added that the passing of the motion doesn't commit council to the full cost of the "world class 15 acre park" (The fourth motion presenter was Cllr David Taylor)

Cllr Henry Reilly added his support to the project "I support this 100%" The councillor spoke of the environmental benefit of the project adding that the best parks are organic "I don't want some cosmetic thing that looks like an NFL football pitch in New York" He concluded by saying that "costs are not going to bust this council by any means"

Cllr Michael Savage added that he was delighted that he has played some part in the campaign. Cllr Savage had asked for the motion to be debated at the SPR meeting. The councillor asked  "Are we as a council going to listen to the people of our city" saying that "This scheme has the potential to be the jewel in our city's crown. Cllr Savage then gave his vision of the park being the first step in a golden mile in Newry all the way down the quay.

Cllr Mickey Ruane made it quite clear that Sinn Fein supported a park at the Albert Basin in Newry and that a park would be delivered for the people of Newry.

The motion was proposed by Newry Councillor Davy Hyland and seconded by Downpatrick Councillor Gareth Sharvin.