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Green Light For Down Leisure Centre Welcomed By Ritchie And McGrath
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Environment Minister Mark H Durkan has confirmed to South Down MP Margaret Ritchie that a planning approval/certificate will be issued today  (30 April 2014) for Down Leisure Centre in Downpatrick.

Margaret Ritchie MP and Downpatrick Councillor Colin McGrath, who is Chair of the Council’s Project Steering Committee, have welcomed the long-awaited planning approval/certificate for the new Down Leisure Centre.

Minister Mark H Durkan said: “This £13.65 million development scheme, by Down District Council, is welcome news for Downpatrick, injecting investment in to the local economy.

“It will bring new and improved leisure facilities the whole community can enjoy. This will help to improve health and wellbeing by providing excellent sport and leisure facilities for people in the area.”

The Minister added: “Decisions like this are helping to deliver a better environment and a stronger economy.”

An artist's view of the new Down Leisure Centre.

An artist’s view of the new Down Leisure Centre.

Margaret Ritchie MP said: “Following many many months of protracted discussions and negotiations between Down District Council and the officials within the Northern Ireland Environment Agency of the Department of the Environment, and also many meetings with the former and current Minister for Environment, Mark H Durkan over the content of some of the conditions attached to the initial planning approval,  I have now been informed by the Minister that planning approval will be given on Wednesday morning for the new Down Leisure Centre and that hopefully all issues have been resolved which would enable construction of this District Community Leisure facility to begin.

“This is extremely welcome news for the local community and ends the many months of uncertainty regarding the future timetable for the construction of this  much needed district recreational facility.

“In March 2013 the previous Minister for the Environment, indicated that the new Leisure Centre would be approved subject to conditions. In the ensuing months Council officials through discussions and negotiations worked through the detail of those conditions to ensure that work could commence on this much needed facility.

“I am pleased that those discussions have now concluded to enable the designers and contractors to be appointed so that work can begin on this much needed facility to replace the existing building which is over 30 years old.  Undoubtedly, this new Leisure facility which will replace the existing one on the Lower Market Street site in Downpatrick will cater for all ages in terms of recreational and sporting provision.  There is now such a focused concentration on health and well being throughout these islands and it is timely that  this Leisure centre on completion will fulfil many of the physical recreational needs of the wider population in the Down area.

“I hope that in the next couple of years that we can see a new modern up-to-date leisure facility rising up from the ground catering for the sporting and recreational needs of all within our community for this century.”.

Cllr Colin McGrath, local SDLP Downpatrick Councillor,Leisure Centre Project Steering Committee Manager, said: “This is a very welcome announcement, and I am delighted about it as it will mean the commencement of work on the ground in Lower Market Street, Downpatrick for our new Leisure Centre.

“I have always had a vision for a state-of-the-art-leisure provision in the heart of Downpatrick, and am very pleased that we are now able to deliver on this pledge made to the people of our area.

“I look forward to seeing the first sod cut in the ground very soon, and work commence to deliver this facility for the people of the Down area.  Both Margaret Ritchie MP and myself would like to thank the former and current Ministers for the Environment for listening to the representations made, and ensuring that full planning approval is now issued for the new Leisure Centre in Downpatrick”.