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An attempt by Newry City Councillor, Cllr Michael Savage to find out a timeline for 'feet on the ground' and a more detailed costing for the proposed public park at the Albert Basin in Newry failed. Despite interuptions from the SP&R Chairperson, Cllr Oonagh Hanlon *, Savage continued to try and get his point across but in the end his conversation ceased abrubtly mid sentence during the online meeting and he didn't get a chance to finish. 

With less and less chance to discuss matters to do with the park in Council at present Cllr Savage used the opportunity of an agenda item about the lease of a section of the Albert Basin grounds to the Public Health Authority to try and get his point across.

An ongoing review into the governance of the Newry City Centre Regeneration Programme (of which the Albert Basin Park is part)  is taking place at present and Council Management have said there will be no discussion on any matters relating to the Programme at any Committee Meetings until the investigation is concluded.

A proposal to see the lease to the Public Heath Authority of a part of the Albert Basin site continue to 31 December 2021 was discussed and eventually approved at the monthly Strategy, Policy and Resources meeting of Newry, Mourne and Down Council. 

Cllr Michael Savage spoke of his understanding that this continued lease could affect the progress of the park and asked at what stage we are going to move to actual boots on the ground.

Cllr Michael Savage

"because this will impact how we handle this depending on the need over the winter months, in particular in relation to Covid. The issue we have is that I know that after the presentation given on the concept, [design for the park] which is excellent, on the park we were still waiting for some sort of data and breakdown in relation to the potential costs for the clearing of the site, because obviously the costs we were hearing were exceptionally high compared to what we had initially envisaged." explained Savage.

To which SP&R Chairperson, Cllr Oonagh Hanlon * said "Is this relevant to this.. "

 Cllr Savage continued " It's exceptionally relevant and the reason for it is that we had passed a motion at council saying that we would want work to commence on that site within this Council term and this is based on the timeline."

* Cllr Hanlon "Cllr Savage those costs were discussed in closed session"

Cllr Savage  "... what the costs were discussed in closed session, can you hear me, can you hear me Chair"

Chair "I can. I just believe what you're raising should be discussed at Strategic Finance Working Group. I don't think it's relevant to what Colin has brought forward this evening."

Cllr Savage wasn't having any of it  "The question I'm asking relates to getting information that we'd asked for for a breakdown of the costs of the park because they will impact on the timeline as to when we will get boots on the ground in the park"

(Chair interupts)  

Cllr Savage "and that in return impacts  .. .Excuse me Chair ...that in return  impacts the timeline of when the PHA site will if it was extended, for example if we had another lockdown or another extensive outbreak of another variant of Covid and the PHA required to be on that site, we would have to make decisions on when potentially that could impact on it.

"So I'm asking a question. Cllr Stokes has asked for information on that, that we progress things and move things on in Council in relation to when we could potentially get boots on the ground on the site, and it's been about four or five weeks since he's asked for the information and I would like that information to come forward because whenever this comes round again in maybe three or six months time and we still have to deal with the impact of Covid, with the PHA site on the site, we need that information"

 Chair "refer you to item 2.6 on the paper which says quite clearly that it doesn't impact any future development on the site ... I do think we should move forward ... I don't think it's ..."

Cllr Savage "Chair with respect there's a couple of points I wanted to make"

"Chair "I'm going to move on ... unless it's relevant to the paper, I'm not taking you in again"

Cllr Savage  "Chair with all due respect it says on the paper that the expectation is that the work in this period will be office based and what I'm asking is when it is likely to be not office based and boots on the ground because that will impact the long term ...." At this stage Cllr Savages words were cut off and the Chairperson said "That will be discussed at the Programme Board at the relevant time Cllr Savage" and continued on to the next speaker.

We reported on WWW.NEWRY.IE that Cllr Gary Stokes, Chair of the Newry City Centre Regeneration Programme had requested from Council Management a breakdown of the £30.2 million cost figure raised by Consultants in their report way back in June. The Councillor is still waiting!

* Correction 10.40pm 19/8/21

Chairperson of meeting was Cllr Oonagh Hanlon and not Council Chairperson Cllr Cathy Mason as previously mentioned.


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