SOCIAL Development Minister Nelson McCausland has visited Portaferry to discuss community proposals to regenerate the town centre area.
During a walkabout of the town centre, the Minister was accompanied by local political representatives and members of the Portaferry Regeneration Group.
Minister McCausland said: “I welcome the opportunity to visit Portaferry and meet with members of the Portaferry Regeneration Group and hear about regeneration proposals for the area. My Department’s Housing Strategy sets out proposals for supporting town and city centre regeneration through a revitalised Living Over the Shops (LOTS) initiative
“I was therefore pleased to be able to hear the views of local business owners and community representatives on how initiatives such as this could regenerate Portaferry.”
DSD currently conducts Urban Regeneration functions in defined urban areas, i.e. areas with a population of 4,500 or over. Portaferry, with a population of approximately 2,500 falls outside this definition of urban and therefore would ultimately be the responsibility of the Department of Agriculture in its rural remit.
Vital and Viable sets out the Department’s suggested approach to the reinvigoration of cities and town centres and seeks to encourage greater use of town and city centres by attracting more people to work, socialise and shop in them. The DSD can assist in city and town centre regeneration by fostering better planning and marketing; tackling dereliction and market failure; comprehensive development projects; and improving streetscapes.
Ards Councillor Joe Boyle, a Portaferry Regeneration board member, said after attending the meeting: “I welcome the visit by the Minister to Portaferry. It was a valuable exercise. There are pots of funding out there for Portaferry to tap into to help upgrade the properties in the centre of the town. We have had a lot of meeting over the last year or so and the regeneration of our town centre needs now to be fully on the table.
“For every £25,000 we put in through LOTS from the DSD we lever another £75,000 from the Lottery Heritage Fund.
“South Down MP Margaret Ritchie, when she was DSD Minister in 2009, put £500,000 up for such developments but that seems to have disappeared again off the table. In terms of overall government finance it is small beer and now Portferry needs a major facelift and this in turn will have a huge impact on our local tourism and commerial life.
“We will be having further meetings with the DSD and other government departments. We certainly want the Minister to deliver on LOTS for us. That needs to be on the table. At the moment we have 28 property projects going and 14 of these are listed buildings. We are deeply involved in trying to preserve and protect the built heritage of Portaferry. The main areas we are focussed on are the Square, High Street, Ferry Street and along the shore front.”
Portaferry Regeneration is a company limited by guarantee which was incorporated in 1994. The company has a membership of some 50 individuals from the local community and is managed by a board of voluntary directors elected by the members.
In the mid 1990’s, the Portaferry Regeneration Ltd secured financial assistance from the International Fund for Ireland and developed four regeneration projects which it continues to manage today. One of the key aims of the Association is recognising the outstanding natural beauty of Portaferry’s surroundings. It seeks to make the town a more desirable place to live in and visit by facilitating:
* the creation and development of self-sustaining local businesses
* the restoration of its built heritage and the elimination of dereliction
* the development of its amenities, tourist attractions and infrastructure
Portaferry welcomes tourists from all over the world who come to experience its traditional charm and the beauty of its surroundings.
Portaferry is an historic port on the shores of Strangford Lough centred around a market square with a traditional atmosphere with small shops and pubs. It was a famous maritime centre in years gone by and has a proud history. Once in the town there was ship building and rope making industries, and the port expanded and even became the last dry land in Ireland for many as they voyaged across the Atlantic to America in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. But when boats became bigger in the twentieth century, navigation of ‘The Narrows’ became more difficult and Portaferry’s advantage was lost to Belfast and other more deep water, navigable ports.