THREE community groups are celebrating after their projects were launched after receiving key funding from the Down Rural Area Partnership.
The projects will make a great contribution to the lives of residents in each of the communities of Clough, Annesborough and Saintfield. South Down MP Margaret Ritchie speaking at the launch of the Clough Old School project, praised the local groups.
Clough Village Committee are delighted that their project of the refurbishment of the Old School premises has now been officially opened by Noel Lavery, DARD Permanent Secretary, and a new body has been set up to manage it.[caption id="attachment_43012" align="alignleft" width="390"] Clough Old School is officially opened after an extensive renovation. Pictures are local political representatives and committee members with DARD Permanent Secretary Noel Lavery and South Down MP Margaret Ritchie.[/caption]
Following a short reception, Ian Burtney, Chairman of The Old School Ltd, said: “The Old School was officially re-opened on Saturday 28 September 2013 by Mr Noel Lavery, Permanent Secretary of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. Also in attendance were Ms Margaret Ritchie MP, Mr Jim Wells MLA, Mr John McAllister MLA and representatives from Down Rural Area Partnership.
“We received 75% funding from DRAP – a total of £79,000 and the Clough Presbyterian Church provided the balance to cover development costs.
“The Old School has been a landmark on the main street of Clough village since it was built as a single room primary school in 1858.It was extended to provide a second classroom in 1925 and serviced the area as the local school until the 1960’s when It was replaced by Clough Primary School (now Cumran Primary School).
“The building has remained in use by various groups, and in the past served as a venue for evening classes hosted by Down College of Further and Higher Education.
“In more recent years the property has been the base for activities and meetings of Clough Village Committee, who have been instrumental in carrying out various improvement works in the village.
“In 2008 the Old School came into the ownership of Clough Presbyterian Church through a bequest of the Jordan estate. The building remained in regular use by the Village Committee and hosted the meetings of the Old School House Club… a well-attended weekly meeting for local senior citizens
Mr Burtney explained that The Old School had reached a stage where it was in much need of renovation and modernisation and in 2010 an application for grant assistance was made to the Rural Development Fund. The application was successful and in September 2012 Joseph McClune and Son contractors were appointed to carry out renovation works to the building.
The work undertaken included re-roofing the building, replacement of the existing windows, provision of a new kitchen, thermal enhancements, disability access improvements and the creation of a flexible open space to cater for the needs of various size groups.
The project was completed in March 2013 and since then it has been used for a variety of classes, courses, outreach and as a venue for local senior citizens clubs and the local Orchard Grove care home.
He added: “The building once again stands proud at the centre of the community and is available for hire by individuals and community groups. The facility provides a modern comfortable environment capable of catering for large and small groups alike. The provision of a folding partition allows the space to be divided or used as one space. Wheelchair accessible toilet facilities are provided along with a well-appointed kitchen, public address system, digital projector and screen to cater for classes, seminars and small conferences.”
The Clough Village Committee are now currently progressing with the setting up of a new playpark in the village.
“Booking enquiries for the Old School can be made by contacting Mrs Margaret McCall on 028 44811295 or by emailing to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ritchie Praises Clough For Efforts and Community Spirit
South Down MP, Margaret Ritchie (SDLP) speaking at the official opening of Clough Old School following the extensive renovation, said: “This is a day of immense celebration for the community of Clough and the wider rural hinterland. At long last, the landmark building – the Old School in the centre of the village has been transformed into a community centre.
“The school which is owned by Clough Presbyterian Church is another piece of essential community infrastructure which is already used for a wide range of activities for the elderly, young people, drug awareness and craft classes and Christian Exploration lectures. All these activities clearly reflect and characterise the overall ethos of this facility – a place of education and caring for the local community of Clough.
“Situated in the heart of the community, the renovation of this building has contributed to the regeneration of this village following in the footsteps of the Health Village, Cumran School and the new garage complex.”
Ms Ritchie saud that a special thanks must go to the Minister, the elders and members of the local Church and wider community who have displayed vision in ensuring this facility has been made available for the local community; to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Down Rural Area Partnership for the provision of monies to enable the restoration of the hall to take place which is sympathetic to the architecture of the original structure and the local built heritage.
She added: “I also hope that the Village Plan prepared by Mentor Consultants some time ago will unveil other pointers for the further regeneration of the village which needs to be accompanied by resources from central and local government for implementation purposes.
“I wish the local community and the committee of Clough Old School best wishes, and I congratulate them in their persistent endeavours and hope that this hall will remain at the centre of this local community for many years to come”.
***Local Action Group Chairperson David Kerr said: “The transformation of the facility is absolutely remarkable; the hall is now of a very high standard, and I hope to see lots of community groups avail of the excellent new facility. The new hall was designed knowing it would be used for a variety of different activities, and can facilitate activities of all types from committee meetings to youth clubs.This is a worthwhile venture that will bring great benefits to the Clough area”. Axis 3 of the NI Rural Development Programme (NIRDP) is worth £100M and is delivered on DARDs behalf by 7 council clusters. The Axis 3, Rural Development Programme, Measure 3.4, funding for Refurbishment and Alterations to The Old School, Clough is administered by Down Rural Area Partnership.