Monday 22 October 2018 08:43:12 PM

Sinn Féin Backing Donard Park Site For New Leisure Centre
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NEWCASTLE Councillor Willie Clarke has talked to Down News following a public meeting organised by Sinn Féin  in the Newcastle Leisure Centre to facilitate the public’s views on the new proposed leisure centre in Newcastle.

Sinn Féin Councillor Clarke said: “There were a broad range of views in relation to the location of the proposed centre. A few were concerned about the visual impact of the building. A representative from Tullybrannigan Residents Association had concerns due to possible water displacement into Tullybrannigan. However, the vast majority at the meeting wanted the leisure centre developed and recognised the urgency that faces Down District Council to prepare and submit a planning application.

Down District Sinn Féin Counillors Stephen Burns and Willie Clarke with South Down MLA Chris Hazzard, centre, at their public meeting to consider the future of the new Newcastle Centre development.

“The former girl’s school site is now on the open market, and Council officers will now have discussions with the planners in regards what development is appropriate given the close proximity to a  residential area and flood plain restrictions. There will likely be planning difficulties with this site. As a Newcastle Councillor I would welcome the purchase of the site, at a reasonable price, as it could accommodate a replacement 3G pitch which would enhance the facilities in Donard Park.”

Councillor Clarke added: “Having an indoor leisure centre/ swimming facility (including play pool) in Donard Park will provide a great boost for tourism. It gives the tourist and local alike the security that no matter what the weather is, the children will be guaranteed a good seaside experience.  

“The centre will also be an iconic visitor attraction in its own right and will be a magnate for tourists, it will be located in the gateway to the High Mournes, and it is hoped that a series of greenway walking and cycling routes will be developed, linking the Donard Park with the Granite Trail at the Harbour.

“Success is a magnate for more success, and by building the Gateway Centre this iconic building will be a tourism hub, it will also regenerate the South of Newcastle and become  a catalyst for the creation of tourism and activity tourism business in this area.

“However, the vision for the new complex is to have a Health and Well being centre which will comprise of sports hall for multi-purpose sports, swimming pool(tourism-targeted play pool), new health clinic, units for activity based tourism business, community meeting rooms, 50 station fitness suite, office accommodation for the Mourne Heritage Trust, the Mountain Mountain Rescue Team, and a Tourism office.

“The centre will also be a gateway centre into the Mourne mountain landscape. Because of the unique landscape in the Donard Park area it is essential that this iconic new build is of the highest design quality incorporating the best environmental guidelines which will include a biomass woodchip heating system.

“I agree with comments aired at the public meeting that there needs to be special detail in regards the materials used, including the use of glass for the visual opportunities of the great panoramic views. Donard Park is a very important landscape unit which includes the historic Donard Demesne woodlands, it is a very special place, a landscape which I walk in almost every day of the week. Only a building carefully located within this larger setting, with exceptional sympathetic design will be acceptable. I believe as part of the proposed development a master plan is now required for the entire Park.”

As the clock ticks, Down District Council, the driving force behind the Newcastle Centre project, will be gearing up to speed to address this large capital spend project, and consideration will also have to be given to the vacant school site as an option. Council officers have already acknowledged that discussion and a speedy decision will be required if this overall project is to succeed within the administrative time limits for funding opportunities.