Following discussions at the Active and Healthy Communities committee meeting on Monday 18 February of Newry Mourne and Down District Council, the members agreed to support Downpatrick FC going forward after their bid to the EU Social Investment Fund collapsed.
The Downpatrick FC proposal aimed to build a fit-for-purpose 3G pitch with associated lighting, car parking and changing facilities at the site adjacent to Downpatrick Racecourse and the back of Racecourse Road in Downpatrick. Council Chief Executive Liam Hannaway received a letter from the Executive Office which said: “The original cost of the project was £1,042 986 which was to be funded via £492,986 from the Social Investment Fund (SIF) Community Operated Sports Facilities Project with the remainder being provided by the Department for Communities, Landfill Community Trust and Newry Mourne and Down District Council with a collective offer of £550,000. However, groundwork and drainage issues identified at design stage have caused significant cost increases resulting in the sum required to deliver the project rising to £3,080,894.“
The letter continued: “Given the increased costs, the Department reappraised the business case for the project and was unable to establish that the proposed construction costs of approximately £3million were value for money.”
The project failed as it did not meet the necessary standards for value for money.
Speaking after the meeting, AHC director Michael Lipsett said ”The key issue was the need construct a concrete slab supported by piles to carry the pitch, changing pavilion and floodlighting. This was due to the discovery of very poor ground across the entire site resulting in considerable additional costs to construct the facility. After consideration of several alternative design options and a re-assessment of the costs, it was found to cost almost three times more than the original estimate.
“The funder determined that the project no longer demonstrated value for money and was therefore not viable ”.
“Council officers and myself have spent almost five years working with Downpatrick FC officials, and it is a disappointing result for us all. But all is not lost. We are happy to look at any options that the Club wishes to bring before the Council, and one possible option is to re-establish the club on their former Downshire soccer pitch site.
“While the Council contribution has effectively been lost due to the project not proceeding, should there be a new viable project, the Council would consider diverting these funds. to a future development. Council has agreed to work with the club and if the land can be found, then planning permission and a business case would be required.”
Councillor Gareth Sharvin who chairs the AHC committee said: “Myself and Councillor Terry Andrews have met with club representatives on Tuesday to discuss how we can move forward with this. It was very unfortunate that the project for a new pitch in Downpatrick failed due to environmental reasons making it poor value for money.
“Downpatrick FC are an excellent club and provide a huge amount of sport and recreation for young boys and girls and indeed young men and women in this area. In a week there could easily be over 100 people participating in soccer matches and not to mention the voluntary management, fund-raising and training that underpins this activity of the club.
“Council has agreed to work with the club and I will certainly do all I can to ensure they have a proper football pitch and facilities as soon as is possible.”