The Albert Basin Park project has been at the centre of local aspirations and politics for the past ten years writes Kevin McAteer.
Widely considered to be a potential jewel in the Newry Mourne and Down District Council crown with huge tourist and visitor pulling power, the Albert Basin site spanning 15 acres has the potential to be a tremendous legacy for future generations. However, the real question is how far are we to realising this development?
Speaking on the issue to Down News, Newry 2020 spokesperson Brian Cleland said: “Despite the lack of news in recent months, there has been a lot happening behind the scenes with the Albert Basin Park.
“Following a successful public campaign by Newry 2020 towards the end of last year to get the Council to commit to a 15 acre park in its Corporate Plan, the Council has now appointed consultants to carry out a public consultation on the project.
“The primary aim of this consultation is to establish what the public would like to see in a park.
“The consultants met with the Park Stakeholder Forum a number of weeks ago, and we were extremely impressed by the positive attitude they are bringing to the project.
“We were also pleased that they acknowledged the massive community consultation that Newry 2020 have carried out over the last few years, and they confirmed that this would feed into the final report.
“It appears that the Council, after years of delay, have finally committed to moving the project forward, and we view this as a major turning point in the Albert Basin Park campaign.
“Unfortunately the consultation, which was due to begin this month, will probably be delayed by the ongoing Coronavirus situation. Nevertheless, once the consultation finally begins, we would urge people in Newry and beyond to participate as fully as possible to ensure that their ideas and insights are properly captured and recorded.”
Newry 2020 are still very much focusse on realising their dream project. The Albert Basin Park project is very much alive. But the Covid-19 epidemic is a serious stumbling block for the campaign group but eventually it will be on track again. Newry 2020 are very keen to continue the quest for a 15 acre public space at the Albert Basin site prompting what could be a major transformation of Newry City centre and the beginning of a real vision for Newry’s future.
Mr Cleland added: “In terms of next steps, we have been advised that once the consultants’ report has been approved by the Council, a full project team will be formally appointed to take the project forward. We are hopeful that this can happen very soon and certainly before the end of the year. At that point the real work will begin to deliver a park that will benefit people across the greater Newry area, and completely transform our city centre.
“We would emphasise that we have only reached this stage due to relentless public support and ongoing pressure on our elected representatives. We want to thank everyone for their fantastic support, and remember to keep demanding the amazing city park that we all deserve!”
A Council spokesperson said: “Newry, Mourne and Down District Council cancelled the planned Public Consultation Events due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The consultation events will be rescheduled when the current restrictions on public meetings are relaxed.
“A report in relation to proposed development of Albert Basin Park will be submitted in due course to the Strategy Policy and Resources Committee for consideration.”