Councillors Continue Sale Deal With Church To Secure Site For Newcastle Leisure Centre

THE debate over the sale of the site of the former St Mary’s Primary School in Downpatrick rumbled on at the Down District Council Recreation Committee meeting yesterday evening (Tuesday 18 Fenruary). The site had been earmarked by the Council for a new leisure centre.

Following a lengthy discussion which at one time went in commirree and the press were excluded, a number of actions were agreed by the councillors who were deeply concerned at the last minute  turn of  developments in the sale of the site from the Maghera parish in Newcastle to the Council.

dn_screenThere was a disgreement about the price and at the last minute when the Council thought a deal was struck, another bidder appears to have entered the process and upped the stakes. The Councillors were claiming that a deal had in fact been all but agreed. But despite this, the Council have decided to move forward again to secure the sale at this late stage despite the difficulties of understanding and in the negotioation with the Church representatives.

At the Council committee meeting, it was agreed to:

 * maintain the bid at the level already offered to the Maghera parish and not offer a penny more.

*  hold a public meeting in Newcastle Leisure Centre on Thursday 27 February at 7.30pm inviting all local political representatives, and representatives from the parish in Maghera, Newcastle, and from the Dioscese of Down and Connor.

*  invite local councillors to the negotiation meeting as well as Council officers conducting the negotiation.

* and to update  all of the  Councillors at the next full Council meeting on Monday 24 February.

During the meeting to unravel the difficult situation, a telephone call came in from the legal representatives of the Church adding to the unfolding drama to say that they still wanted to continue on the deal and that bridges had NOT been burned.

Although Down News cannot reveal the figures being negotiated over, there is still a gulf to close. But as both parties are primarily concerned about the people of Newcastle area, this decision will be somewhat easier given this common ground.

The disappointment among the councillors on the Recreation Committee was as palpable as their frustration. But the councillors did explain they have another option of a site to build a leisure centre in Newcastle if the deal falls through. The green field site option in Donard Park is still alive, although a number of councillors and people in Newcastle were concerned at the visual impact of a leisure centre at the foot of the Mournes close to Slieve Donard. There are no other suitable sites currently available in the area.