After several years of meetings, planning, filling in forms, discussions, and waiting, the bid for the long-hoped for new 3G soccer pitch for Downpatrick has collapsed.
The main reason is due to the condition of the ground and escalating costs in addressing the core issues.
A spokesperson for Newry Mourne and Down District Council said: “Downpatrick Football Club submitted a project to the South Eastern Steering Group which was prioritised for funding. A threefold cost increase to deliver the project was identified last year due to ground conditions.
“The Department worked with the professional design team and the Lead Partner (Newry Mourne and Down District Council) to consider ways to bring the costs down. Unfortunately, the condition of the site was such that these increases were inescapable.
“Given the increased costs, the Department reappraised the business case for the project and was unable to establish that the proposed construction costs of £3m were value for money.
“The Department acknowledges the work put into the project by all concerned and realises that the decision not to progress is disappointing.”
Down News understands that the Council are deeply concerned and will explore the options for the club going forward. It has even been tentatively discussed by a club member that the former Downshire pitch could be re-activated.
Sinn Féin South Down MP Chris Hazzard said he shares the disappointment of the local community as confirmation has now been given by the Social Investment Fund (SIF) that the proposed Downpatrick FC Sports Facility Project adjacent to Downpatrick Racecourse will not be proceeding.
Mr Hazzard joined Downpatrick FC Committee members at a meeting with SIF, and Newry Mourne and Down Council officials in Downpatrick on Monday morning to discuss the outcome of the economic appraisal process.
Mr Hazzard said: “After nearly six years in preparation and hopeful anticipation, this morning’s news is a bitter pill to swallow. This was an exciting prospect for the local community, and my thoughts are with the wider Downpatrick FC membership as they come to terms with this disappointing decision.
“Whilst I accept SIF’s decision not to move forward with the scheme due to the significant cost implications of the ground works that would be required, I am frustrated that it took the best part of a year for the SIF team to relay this decision to the Club, and the local community.
“There can be no doubt that a year’s uncertainty and anxiety has had a huge impact on this local sports’ club, and SIF must bear this in mind when engaging with community groups in future.
“In light of this decision it is important now that Newry Mourne and Down District Council engages proactively with the club as they plot an alternative way forward. Council must also be mindful that a large amount of young people in the district have lost out on a great opportunity to utilise much needed modern sports’ facilities.”
Mr Hazzard added: “Whilst it was unwelcome news regarding the Downpatrick project, it was positive to finally get confirmation that Ballyhornan’s sports project has been approved by SIF, and will now advance to construction. This project has the potential not only to help meet the growing need for suitable soccer facilities in the district, but can act as a sustainable social driver for the Ballyhornan area.”