O'Boyle: Time To Plan Ahead For Newcastle Swimming Pool and Leisure Centre

WITH building work about to start in March on St Mary’s new primary school in Newcastle, SDLP councillor Carmel O’Boyle says that now is the time to plan for our long-awaited leisure centre. She said, “Once the 15 month building programme on the primary school is complete, Down District Council needs to be in a position to put down a marker to obtain the site of the former girls’ school in Shanslieve Drive. This is a brown field site and would be ideal for a leisure centre and swimming pool for Newcastle. By building on this site there would be no need for us to use Donard Park at all and the playing fields would be secure. Once the Department of Education declares the site surplus to requirements, our local authority will be given first refusal, so in the coming 15 months we could undertake an Economic Appraisal and even apply for planning permission in order to be ready to submit an expression of interest to the Department of Education. “I have asked for this proposal to be discussed on Friday at Newcastle’s Steering Group so that we can invite pubic reaction to this idea. Already it is clear that the provision of a leisure centre and swimming pool is at last a viable proposition for Newcastle, but we have always been thinking along the lines of building one on Donard Park. I have always had reservations about that because it would entail the removal of pitches and would to all intents and purposes, make Donard Park unavailable for other events such as pipe band competitions and so on. “Now that we are about to build 130 new social houses on the Castlewellan Road, the argument that the school site in Shanslieve Drive should be used for that purpose is no longer an imperative. We could close off the entrance to the site in this street with access to the leisure centre being gained through Donard Park. This would result in minimum disruption to people living in that area. It would also allow us to build a stand for the football teams and the changing facilities in our leisure centre would negate the need for a new pavilion. All of these facilities are long overdue, in my opinion. The flood alleviation scheme that our council secured for Newcastle has freed up the land on the Castlewellan Road for new houses. The building of our new primary school will free up a wonderful brown-field site at Shanslieve Drive that I want our council to secure for the people of Newcastle, and we need to start to make plans now so that this will happen,” she added. ]]>