Slieve Gullion Councillor Barra Ó Muirí has spoken of the huge frustration over the failure to deliver on the Play Park promised to Newtown under the Rural Development Programme but claims that all is not lost and has asked all stakeholders to get involved in any new community engagement.

The local Councillor said that the onus was now on Newry Mourne & Down Council to deliver a Play Area for a community who feel that they have been massively let down.

Commenting  on the issue Councillor Ó Muirí said,“We all feel let down and angry,the residents were promised a Play Park  by Council after a lengthy process. I am also angry that Council Officials failed to act on my warnings around flooding concerns on the proposed site quickly enough”.

The Councillor  explained ‘Newtown was originally earmarked for year 4 of the Council’s Play Strategy, which meant the Park would have been built in 2021/2022, giving the community of Newtown ample opportunity to discuss possible sites, and crucially, to have have engaged in pre-planning consultation with all sites”.

Cllr Ó Muiri continued ‘Instead, Newtown was fast-tracked into the Rural Development Programme, which would have been fantastic had there been agreement as to where the park would be sited. Instead, at the Public Consultation two sites emerged, the Youth Club site and Jim Steen Park. A private vote was taken, with Playboard NI reporting that the majority had voted for Steen Park.’

In the weeks that followed, I was inundated with calls from residents feeling aggrieved at the consultation process.

I called a public meeting in Newtownhamilton Community Centre, which was attended by 108 residents. Those in attendance unanimously voted to site the new Play Area at the Youth Club.

The Slieve Gullion elected representative said that he had consistently raised issues of concern in relation to Steen Park.

“I have consistently raised issues of concern since last summer around public health and safety concerns about a Play Park at Jim Steen Park. These included, access issues, lack of parking, traffic issues through Dungormley Estate, the security of the perimeter fence, lack of visibility of the park from Dungormley, the proximity to the football pitch, the proximity of the river and the threat of flooding. These concerns were  ignored  by Council when making their decision to opt for putting the Play Area in Steen Park

Stock Pic. Photograph: Joanna Vidad

"Ultimately, it was several of these issues which led to the failure to secure planning permission, and with time running out to the March 31 deadline of the Rural Development Programme, a decision was made to drop the Newtown Park in favour of one which was shovel ready”

Concluding Councillor Ó Muirí said that Newry Mourne and Down Council are duly obliged to deliver this much needed community facility

“Newry Mourne and Down Council are duly obliged to deliver this much needed facility. The community demand it and as local Councillor for the area I promise to do all I can to make the vision of a modern fit for purpose Play Area, a reality”.


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