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The public consultation report on the Newry City Centre Regeneration Project have been published in full by Newry, Mourne and Down Council in an updated Agenda for a special Strategy, Policy and Resources Committee Meeting this coming Monday 27 September. The update was sent to the press just before 8pm tonight.

The Report conducted by Otium Leisure Consultancy was summarised to Councillors at a meeting of the Newry City Centre Regeneration Programme Board yesterday but it is believed that the full report wasn't shown to them. It can only be speculated on whether the Council's hand was forced or not by the leaking of the full document on the IRSP Newry Facebook page earlier this evening.

The report stretches to 51 pages does not display a great deal of support for the proposed new build Civic Centre/ Council Offices behind Newry Cathedral but the Albert Basin Park which explicitly wasn't mentioned in the consultation (which the document explained was because a consultation had already taken place on the park!) got by far the most comments from responders.

The online survey attracted 1,585 responses, one of the largest surveys ever completed locally.

691 people responded to the final ‘any other comments’ question in the consultation with 226 respondents reiterating the need for the Albert Basin 15 Acre City Park; 38 comments pointed to the need for engagement and transparency; 76 comments related to parking and traffic management and 47 respondents reiterated their objection to the civic hub and the public realm works at the cathedral!

Theatre and Riverside Square Tops

When respondants were asked to prioritise the different elements of the project (remember the Park wasn't included in the questions) the element that most peopled wanted at 58% priority was the New Theatre with 200+ seats and Conference Faciities and digital innovation hub as well as the New riverside square and performance space ‘on the Ross Thompson site, and paving, seating, lighting and landscaping at Bank Parade.

only 23% of respondants saw the relocation of the Council Offices to a new build in the city centre which will include desk space for other public sector employees, as a priority and in fact 71% saw it as the lowest priority.

The consultation exercise, delivered between January and August 2021, comprised the following elements: Two stakeholder engagement workshops in  January; An online survey from March to May;  5 online public workshops; 5 online targeted workshops engaging with City centre businesses (BID members), Newry Cathedral (Committee representatives), Young People (School Councillors), District wide business interests and Section 75 groups. Written submissions were invited and  series of key stakeholder organisation telephone interviews were also conducted.

15 Acre City Park being considered as higher priority for investment than many, or any, of the other regeneration proposals

As the report states "Two issues dominate discussion amongst those respondents — the Albert Basin 15 Acre City Park and parking at Newry Cathedral. Both issues are represented by a vocal and articulate lobby, as reflected in the survey responses, and whilst their concerns are strongly put across and considered in this report, it is clear that a sizeable proportion of survey respondents have looked at questions through one or other of these lenses. The result is the issue of parking at the cathedral being raised in response to questions about the theatre, and the Albert Basin 15 Acre City Park being considered as higher priority for investment than many, or any, of the other regeneration proposals."

The report adds "The issue of parking and traffic management also dominantes the consultation responses in particular views on the potential impact on parking at the cathedral as a result of the proposals relating to a civic hub and the public realm works to the rear of the cathedral."

Comments

Park

"Seems like a good initiative but all focus should be on Albert Basin Park. First and foremost!"

"As much as these will benefit the town I feel as a resident the need for more open spaces and a park would be of benefit to mental health"

Theatre

"I feel this could be a great addition to the city centre if executed well. It is an area with plenty of parking and nearby restaurants and bars which would no doubt benefit from a busy and frequently used theatre. With plans to re-populate the city centre with developments in Hill Street, the Old Renault site and Monaghan Street this would accompany plans to increase the level of cultural and leisure facilities in the city greatly."

"These facilities may actually propel Newry from a cobbled together large town into a proper cosmopolitan city (already well placed geographically between our 2 largest cities) able to attract visitors\tourists & future investment. In essence, a 21st Century development with World Class attractive metropolitan facilities coupled with a state of the art Park as the green lung within this proper development. NB: 100 years after Partition & its consequences for this area, it is nothing less than what the entire district including South Down & South Armagh deserves."

"We have a perfectly good theatre in the town hall which is not used enough. We depend mostly on local productions. Will a new theatre attract shows as does theMarket place in Armagh."

Public Realm Works

"The area needs improving but not in this way. Who wants to sit looking at the back of the cathedral or the squalid townscape between a dual carriageway and road serving Mill Street, across to the rear of Supervalue? Improve pedestrian links at surface across from High Street by removing that tunnel. The road and tunnel are a barrier to pedestrian movement and not safe for anyone, let alone females walking alone. Your focus is wrong and misdirected egotism."

Council Offices

"Why do we need new council offices in the centre of the town? Are council workers really going to greatly help footfall and business in the town. This is not the type of business required in the town centre. They could be anywhere, especially now with greater emphasis on working remotely. Could this not be out of town or use the perfectly good, relatively new building in Downpatrick? This is an outrageously unnecessary expense. Spend it on the park (Albert Basin), the theatre and the public realm space at Ross Thompsons."

This Monday a special SP&R Meeting will discuss the Belfast Region City Deal Outline Business Cases, the Albert Basin City Park and "for noting" a Report from Audit Committee – Governance Review of Newry City Centre Regeneration Programme. All of the items are "deemed to be exempt under paragraph 3 of Part 1 of Schedule 6 of the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 2014 - information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the Council holding that information) and the public may, by resolution, be excluded during this item of business." which means they are not open to the public or to the press. It's certainly going to be a busy week.

You can read the full report at WWW.NEWRYMOURNEDOWN.ORG

 

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Declan McChesney · 22 days ago
    A 200 seat theater. That will serve only mini budget events. By pass NEWRY for Dundalk,Tralee anywhere that can seat bigger numbers. What a waste and lack of imagination 

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