Sinn Féin MLA Chris Hazzard and candidate in the Assembly election has asked the PSNI and the Department of Finance to work with community representatives in Downpatrick in order to maximise the huge community potential in the former police station in Irish Street.
In recent months the Downpatrick Community Collective (DCC) have been working alongside the Development Trust to draw up plans that will regenerate the local area sustainably through the development of a community owned asset and sustainable enterprise on the site of the former police station.
Mr Hazzard said: “Whilst I welcome the long overdue decision by the PSNI in recent days to allow DCC representatives access to the site to test the suitability of their plans, the refusal thus far of the PSNI to consider the site for a Community Asset transfer is a serious mistake.
“This refusal to explore the potential in a Community Asset Transfer is deeply concerning given the strategic significance of the site and the widespread political support for the need for genuine community-led regeneration in the local area.
Mr Hazzard added: “I have written to both the Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir and the PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton asking them to find a way to take this vital asset off the open market for a period of time for the community to continue to work with the Newry and Mourne Enterprise Agency, the Development Trust and Newry Mourne and Down District Council in order to draw up a detailed development brief.
“I think a window like this would provide an invaluable opportunity for the local community to take the lead in delivering a very innovative and sustainable community enterprise. What a wonderful legacy that would be for all concerned.”
The Downpatrick Community Collective are hoping they can build a community hotel to accommodate at least sixty persons on the site themed to St Patrick heritage which they believe would be a major tourist asset.