Crisis Over New Newcastle Leisure Centre Site Averted
FOLLOWING uncertainty surrounding the sale of the former St Mary’s primary school site in Newcastle to Down District Council, news of which was reported to members of the Council Recreation Committee on Monday 18 November), the Committee Chairman Councillor Carmel O’Boyle has welcomed the offer from the owners of the site to proceed with the sale as agreed.
Negotiations had been ongoing with the Down and Connor dioscese and the Newcastle parish who owns the school and confusion had arisen after the owners of the school had indicated they were considering selling the site to another bidder. Down District Council was stunned by this move after long internal discussions in Council and finally agreeing within the chamber to move for the preferred option of the old St Mary’s school site as opposed to the green field site in Donard Park.
Discussions had also been taking place with the Church in recent weeks, and the uncertainty by the Church backfooted the councillors who were faced with pulling the leisure centre project altogether if the owners had failed to accept the agreement that the Council purchase the land. An eleventh hour intervention has however saved the day and now all parties can amicably proceed with the sale process.
Councillor O’Boyle said: “The good news is that the crisis which was short-lived has now been averted, and the matter has been resolved.
“Late on Monday evening, Council officers were contacted by the parish solicitor who said the Parish Priest, Father Jim Crudden, would honour the agreement reached on the sale of the land on 28 October. We will all want to draw a line under this unfortunate business and to allow good relations to be resumed in Newcastle, so that trust can be restored.
“The Council’s plans were thrown off course for only a week, but we are now back on track and moving on. What the community of Newcastle wants is a new leisure and well-being centre, and it has now been confirmed, once and for all, that it will be built on the former school site of St Mary’s Primary School.
“Since February of this year, our town has sadly suffered the loss of six young people who took their own lives. This is a tragedy for all of us, but at least now the Council is in a position to provide a wonderful new facility that will give young and old something to do, and somewhere to go.
“Being in a position to address the physical and mental well-being of our community is what this has always ever been about. I want to thank Father Crudden for taking the initiative on Monday evening by making the right decision, regardless of other advice that he might have been subject to.
“Newcastle is rightly proud of its good community relations, and I know we will put this down to experience and move on together for the good of everyone in our town,” added Cllr O’Boyle.