DOWN District Council is on the move.
On Monday 1 October it will relocate from its Strangford Road location in Downpatrick to a redeveloped site at the Downshire Estate. The new site, which was formerly the Downshire Hospital. has been significantly redeveloped and extended to a state-of-the-art building on the Ardglass Road.
The 150 Council staff now have the task of moving their offices to the new facilities. The Council has been planning ‘The Big Move’ for some time and there is a great feeling of expectation among the staff who will now enjoy more spacious and comfortable work places and surroundings.
Looking forward to working at the new Council offices, Down District Council Chairperson Mickey Coogan said: “The new Downshire Civic centre project will provide a major boost for our District.I will help secure jobs for local people, suppport the local economy and unlock potential investment also for the Down District area.
“By moving from the old offices to the new campus, the authority will create a valuable asset for the district, and support more collaborative working between internal services resulting in a more joined up and efficient delivery to customers.
“The creation of a community campus is key to retaining public sector employment and quality public services within the district. The potential to share space with partner organisations will also help to improve partnership working. We welcome the Northern Ireland Housing Executive to the new Downshire Civic Centre and look forward to welcoming additional public services in the future.
“The recent significant announcement to transfer the Departrment of Agriculture and Rural Development from belfast to Ballykelly further demonstrates the important potential of this project for the relocation of public sector jobs to Downpatrick.”
The new premises will present a huge change for the Council staff who have endured cramped working conditions for many years at the Strangford Road premises. The new building will be fully accessible and compliant to the Disability Discrimination Act. The new toilets have been modified to accomodate older children with parents visiting the offices.
The facilities will also promote the feeling of openness and transparency while being sensitive to the needs of privacy and confidentiality. A number of client meeting rooms have also been set aside and the political parties too will have a committee room to work in. A larger committee room can also hold 40 people. The new building also houses sophisticated training facilities which can be used by existing or new users at the new civic centre.
State-of-the-art conference facilities will also be available for hire and the new ceremony room for marriages and civil partnerships will also prove to be a big hit. In the new Council chamber there will be additional space in the comfortable public gallery. And for six small to medium sized businesses there will be office/floor space to add to the sustainability of the Civic Center and generally contribute to its working atmosphere.
In the process of moving, the Council was faced with a major task of dealing with its mountains of records accrued over many years at Strangford Road. But it was not just a question of consigning material to the bin, as the Council requires a dispensation from government to dispose of certain records. But after many weeks of hard work by Council staff, the essential records have been properly filed and boxed for moving to the new offices. The remaining records will then be disposed off.
Councillor Colin McGrath, the Chairperson of the New Down Administration Centre Project Board, also expressed his delight with the new centre and said: “Down District Council has invested £11 million in the creation of this new Civic Centre for the citizens of the district. The move to the new building will enable Down District Council to work more efficiently and provide a one-stop-shop fro customers wanting to access Council services.
“The new headquarters will be sustainable in terms of its economic, social and environmnetal impact. The scheme is already receiving praise as an excellent example of sustainable regeneration of a historic building.”
Councillor McGrath added that the new Downshire Civic Centre is also the ideal venue for many business activities. He said: “The bright, modern facilities are fully accessible with lifts to all floors. The Mourne Donard and Commedagh Rooms and the Binnian Suite have fully integrated IT equipment complete with video conferencing facilities, whilst all other rooms can be fully facilitated with equipment for your business needs. There is also a committee room available.”
Plans are afoot to to open up the Downshire grounds to make the open areas into a public park for everyone to enjoy.
The transfer to the new premises will take place on 1 October.
The current phone number of Down District Council will not change. It is 028 44 610800.