A study of Crossgar’s leisure needs completed by Otium Leisure Consultancy was welcomed by Down District Councillor’s yesterday (Wednesday 8th June) at the monthly Council Recreation Committee meeting. Although Crossgar was seen as a small community, the study explained that it served a wider group of people stretching as far as Belfast.
The options are to build a new leisure centre at either St Colmcille’s High School, Lislea Drive or Kilmore Recreation Grounds. Some funding may necessarily come under the umbrella of Sport NI depending on how much of a sport profile the individual centre model provides. Sport NI is currently accepting applications for funding, and it is expected that a cocktail of grants may need to be put together to support the project.
The report stated that “it would be necessary to devise a project proposal with clear objectives (eg community development, or sports’ development ) to inform exploratory discussions. Sources such as the DSD, IFI and SEELB Youth Services are potential sources of funding depending on the nature of the project and its objectives. However, the potential to attract funding from a range of funders is likely to be enhanced where a partnership arrangement can be devised.”
Michael Lipsett, Director of Recreation, recommended the feasibility study be accepted and that the development moved on to the next stage in trying to establish sources of funding for the project. He said that this was now work in progress and that the Council would need to develop all of the partnership arrangements.
Rowallene Councillor Billy Walker said this development was “long overdue for the Crossgar area”, adding that “we should accept the officer’s recommendations and proceed with this as soon as possible. Hopefully in the short term the officers will meet the relevant community groups in Crossgar and once it passes the consultation stage we will then have to engage with other agencies too.
“This is a positive move, started over one and a half years ago. All councillors in the Rowallene area should be working together on this project. We must move forward with it. Nothing should be allowed to stall it. I have been involved from the onset with it and I am delighted that Down District Council took the initiative after a presentation by the Crossgar Community Group to Council.
“I asked for the Council to provide funding for the feasibility study and now we have to build on the back of this study before us. This will not happen overnight, but I would love to see it complete during the term of this council within four years. I can remember when in Killyleagh we started off with the Bridge Centre, it took longer that planned… almost eight years. We must nevertheless not build up expectations to much.
“Crossgar has just received the crumbs from the table in recent years and now this new leisure centre is realisable. But we must work together on a cross-party basis to get the job done and we have to work with community groups. The Council is in a position now to acquire land if necessary to complete this new cenre development. And community groups will definitely have a say in the ultimate location of the new centre.”
Councillor Marie McCarthy also welcomed the progress and said she had requested this report be brought to the Recreation Committee. She added, “Last year a number of groups representing the entire community, from education to sports to youth, attended a meeting in the War Memorial Community Hall organised by the Down District Council.
“The purpose of the meeting was to gauge the community’s opinion on what type of recreation facilities are needed in the town of Crossgar. The meeting was not only very productive but extremely well attended. There was a very clear message from the community that night that recreation facilities were needed in Crossgar.
“I am delighted, this report has been given approval. The report recommends the building of sports and recreation hall as well as the construction of a 3G pitch. There can be no doubt that this will be welcome news for the residents of Crossgar and the wider community. This is a good news story for the town.
“When campaigning for the Council election a couple of months ago, a key priority of mine was to ensure that smaller towns like Crossgar should have the same access to services and provisions as the larger towns in Down District. This is the first step in bringing that promise to fruition.
“I further hope this proposal will be approved through the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee and work can begin on this project without delay.”
Speaking at the meeting, Independent Councillor Terry Andrews said, “I welcome wholeheartedly this great opportunity for Crossgar, and agree with all the sentiments of support expressed. Hopefully this level of support will spread across the Crossgar district as the project unfolds. It is definitely good news for Crossgar.”
Councillor Peter Craig added, “I also welcome this study. It is very detailed. The groups in Crossgar have a good youth policy and we should all back the development. It is a great start for Crossgar.”
Councillor Willie Clarke said, “In looking at the broader picture, Newcastle is our main tourist town and we need to to look at the leisure centre there. The Newcastle Centre is currently falling to bits.”
The Recreation Committee Chairman Councillor Mickey Coogan concluded the item on the agenda by saying,”I would like to congratulate the Council officials on bringing this report forward… it is ahead of schedule.”