Crossgar Community Centre is up for sale and the clock is ticking… if the community secure it with a quick purchase, it could be saved.
Speaking at the Active and Health Communities committee meeting on Monday evening (16th September), Councillor Terry Andrews (SDLP) explained that the centre on Downpatrick Street had since been put on the market by the owner, the parish of Kilmore.
He said: “Since the nineties the former Hunter’s Moon premises has been used as a community centre by a wide range of groups and activities for the elderly right down to young children and has been an important meeting place in the life of the Crossgar community.
“Now that the the parish trustees have put the premises on the market, the community in Crossgar is keen to acquire the building to continue its future use as a community centre. This has all transpired fairly quickly, and I appreciate that Council may have strategic plans in operation already with other groups across the district.
“However, the centre has been the heart of the village for many years and we need to retain it urgently. I know that there have been a number of community centres recently supported by council in Newry, Downpatrick, Ballynahinch, and Saintfield too after a 40 year campaign.
“Therefore, I would suggest that if possible that Council purchases the premises given that it is on the market and there are a couple of interested bidders already in the pipeline.
“I recognise that this is not the usual way to proceed with capital development in Council and understand that other communities too are seeking new or upgraded centres and have already been liaising with council on this. But I would appreciate council support on this issue given its urgency.”
Michael Lipsett, Director of Active and Healthy Communities with Newry and Mourne District Council, said: “The Crossgar Community Centre does not show up in the capital development programme for council and there is no budget for this at the moment to be considered as part of the rates process and there is no business case done. But I understand that the Department of Communities may have support for this and I will investigate it to see where we are on it. I’m happy to contact the DfC on this.
“A strategic review of Crossgar will certainly take in the community centre but that would take around 12 months to complete.”
Cllr John Trainor (SDLP) supported Cllr Andrews recommendation and said: “Terry has raised a very important and crucial and urgent issue for the people of Crossgar. Other communities such as Ardglass are also looking for assistance from the Council to develop centres. We do need to look at the situation in Crossgar and se what can be done. The local Crossgar Community Association could be used to help facilitate Terry’s suggestion.”
However, Sinn Féin councillor Mickey Ruane said: “This is a difficult one for council and for the people of Crossgar. We are looking at the process of capital expenditure in council and it is not fair on the groups and communities who have been in this process for some time.
“We need a report drawn up so that we can see what can be done. It is not wise for council to commit at this stage.”
Councillor Karen McKevitt (SDLP) said that she understood that the Department of Communities may have financial assistance available for this predicament facing Crossgar.