Ballynahinch Lough Park Project Supported by Council
A major community and environmental project in Ballynahinch has come one step closer after Down District Council agreed to support the efforts of local organisations to provide a shared space and a 3G pitch sporting facility.
The actual regeneration initiative across seven areas in Northern Ireland, the Sharing Our Space (SOS) Programme, covers the border counties and includes the Loughside Drive Community Association project. The project in Ballynahinch will be completed through a phased approach with the development of the 3G pitch as the first regeneration and improvement phase.
A sum of up to £400,00 has been agreed in principle by the Council boosting the dreams of the cross-community steering group pressing forward with the development. Council decided to support option D from seven options and to fund the Ballynahinch project, but the group still hope to be able to proceed with option B if full funding is achieved.
The P&R committee decided to go into ‘In Committee’ mode as sensitive tendering figures were being discussed and the press left the meeting. But after the financial details were ironed out, it was agreed that Council support the project up to this sum of £400,000 but with the provisos that the business matters are processed through the Rates Working Group in the Council and that it is subject to due diligence. It will eventually be referred to a full council meeting for final approval but as yet is supported in principle.
The ‘Sharing Our Space’ project expected to cost in the region of £3.3 million was presented to the Council Policy and Resources Committee last night (Monday 7 January) by the the Ballynahinch group driving the plans. Initially this cross-community group comprising the Ballynahinch Olympic FC and Loughside Community Association has been talking to Council officials for the past year, and with the assistance of Groundwork NI, have progressed plans to a more detailed level. Discussions began in October 2011 with the group and Council and this has involved a wider community consultation involving local residents and organisations.
Martin Sloan, Chairman of Ballynahinch Olympic said: “We are all delighted that the Council has decided to support this worthy project. It has been many years in the making and we still have a huge amount of work ahead of us. But we are all looking forward to progressing to the next stage and levering more finding to make this all happen.
“Our aim after looking at all the options is to create a full size floodlit and fenced 3G pitch with community allotments and wider site enhancements. It will be a real shared community space for all in Ballynahinch. We looked at seven different options and after careful analysis we are happy with the option selected by Down District Council as the preferred option.
“We have spoken to all local parties and schools and the local soccer and rugby interests are interested in using the 3G facility. Studies have shown it will be sustainable which is obviously great news. Ballynahinch Olympic FC has been constrained in its growth over the years through lack of a home pitch. Grassroots skills development has also suffered and women’s participation in the sport has been poor due to the historic lack of facilities.”
Groundwork NI Project Co-ordinator Melvyn Waddell added: “Studies have shown that there is a significant shortfall in the provision of pitches across the Down District Council area which includes Ballynahinch. And according to the Sport England Playing Pitch Model analysis, the Ballynahinch area falls short in junior and senior soccer pitches.
“On the community side, the present environmental unappealing state of the area makes people feel constrained. Significantly, the site in Ballynahinch east ward has a Deprivation Index higher than that of both Ballymaglave wards. Therefore, the proposed development will help to address social inclusion through participation in sport and development of attractive shared space.
“It is great news that the Council has opted to support the project. Option B is ideally positioned closed to the Ballynahinch Centre. Changing and kitchen facilities etc will be readily available. The pitch could be linked to the Centre if Ballynahinch eventually aspire up to Intemediate soccer to meet the IFA’s requirements of a secured access between pitch and changing accommodation.”
The Sharing Our Space project is a potentially £3.3 million development in different phases which may take over three years to complete. It is mainly funded through the EU Peace III programme under Priority II: Contributing to a Shared Society under Theme I – Creating Shared Public Spaces.
The aim of this project is to work with local groups on a cross-community basis to promote building bridges and lessening local divisions and tensions. The facility when it is complete will be accessible and welcoming to a broad cross-section of the Ballynahinch community. Its aim too is to encourage the process of learning and participation between communities and assist communities to engage with statutory authorities.
The Green Book Economic Appraisal was carried out by Otium Leisure Consultancy which showed that project would:
* reiforce progress towards a peaceful society
* promote reconciliation
* be a catalyst for transforming seven localities in Ballynahinch
* have a lasting lageacy and
* would provide creative responses for addressing local needs and issues.
The Ards Down Area Plan 2015 has identified the site as a designated Local Landscape Policy Area describing it as a lough/wetland to the rear of Ballynahinch Leisure Centre.
Councillors Quiz ‘Sharing Our Space’ Group
Committee members raised a number of issues of clarification with the project presenters.
Councillor John Doris: “I would like to see more about the management strructure of the organisation seeking funding. We need a group with strong management. It will be a difficult task.”
Councilor Mickey Coogan said “I understand the partnership will extend to other community groups in Ballynahinch and a partnership group will be set up. But what happens if you lever funding and the full sum is not required, will Council’s commitment then be reduced?” Martin Sloan explained they were seeking funding from other agencies and added that it was possible that if they were successful that the full support may not be necessary. Councillor Coogan also said the nature of the site was always going to necessitate extra work given the need for piling under the 3G pitch.
Councillor Anne McAleenan: “Would this option leave enough room to develop changing rooms and facilities at the side of the Leisure Centre if needed?” Melvyn Waddell explained there was room for further development.
Councillor Eamonn Mac Con Midhe: ‘How does Council work with this project once it is completed?” Reacreation Director Michael Lipsett said that there would be a service level agreement set up between the Council and the management board and Council would have a key role in the running of the project initially.
Councillor Patrick Clarke: “If this project comes to fruition, will it be sustainable?” Ballynahinch Olympic Chairman Martin Sloan said that local groups and sports clubs had already expressed their interest.
Councillor Cadogan Enright: “How does this all fit in with the facilities at the Assumption Grammar School available to the public?” Recreation Director Michael Lipsett explained that Council had an agreement with the school for use of the facilities on nights and weekends and that the proposed facilities at Lough Park will be additional to this.