AT the last meeting of Down District Council on Monday evening (28th March ) before it goes into recess because of the impending local government elections on May 5th, the issue of the future development of Dunleath Park was discussed, and Council officials revealed that there had been discussions ongoing albeit at an early stage to investigate turning this well used sports’ field into a retail park.
Down Council leases part of this overall Upper Market Street estate from Dunleath Estates and there have been concerns about the difficulties the playing fields have encountered with wet weather. There have been many cancelled matches over the past season as pitches in the flood plain have been deemed unplayable and this has inevitably created a loss of revenue for the Council.
Council Chief Executive John Dumigan indicated that there had been discussions with a developer who was “very interested in developing a retail park in the town” which would be a major job creation boost to the county town of Downpatrick. He also explained that the single private developer also indicated he was prepared to re-site the playing fields in another area accessible and close to Downpatrick. Mr Dumigan clarified to the Council chamber that the Couuncil only leased part of the land at Dunleath Park.
A number of sporting and soccer clubs will be very interested in this possible development and the possibility of 3G pitches allowing a better flow of fixtures will certainly be welcomed by the sporting community.
Michael Lipsett, Director of XXXx , said, “We need to look at other locations for these playing fields. We need to identify sites locally and the new leisure centre in Downpatrick may be located next to this playing field development. The negotiations have been and will be long and complex and a working group within the Council is looking at it.
“The Council will then have to decide how it utilises Dunleath Park.”
At present, there are issues with an open drain running through Dunleath Park presenting a possible health hazard to the mainly young users of the playing fields. The drain is occasionally affected by sewage leaking from houses in the wider Vianstown Road area.
Councilor John Doris cautiously welcomed the development but said, “This has to be looked at in the whole.”
On the back of the current row over the possibility of street parking meters being installed in Downpatrick and Downpatrick traders having faced a lean 14 months with the Public Realm scheme works affecting traffic and shopping patterns, the local business community will be looking over their shoulders at this possible retail development at Dunleath Park wondering how and if it will be another longer-term threat to their future livelihoods.