Push For Downpatrick Town Centre Working Group

Downpatrick Regeneration Working Group to create new vision for County Town’s future

Downpatrick Regeneration Working Group to create new vision for County Town’s future

A new Downpatrick Regeneration Working Group has been proposed at the Economic Regeneration and Tourism Committee (ERT) of Newry Mourne and Down District Council.

The group plans to drive forward an ambitious shared vision for the town after a meeting of the Committee on 8 August 2022. The proposal led by Cllr Dermot Curran will be ratified at the Council’s next full meeting in early September.

Back in August 2021, the ERT Committee initially tasked the Council to engage with key stakeholders to explore the potential for a Town Centre Manager.

Following a series of one-to-one meetings and a workshop for the wider business community, it subsequently emerged there were several priorities for local businesses: street cleansing, townscape, pedestrianisation of streets, improved communication and a regeneration forum.

SDLP Cllr Dermot Curran proposed the setting up of a new Working Group for the Downpatrick Town Centre.

While membership may grow as the project progresses, the group is expected to encompass elected members, Council officers, business and community representatives and other government departments such as the Department for Communities (DfC) and Department for Infrastructure (DfI)as required.


Curran Says Downpatrick Needs A Fresh Approach To Regeneration

Cllr Dermot Curran sat on the Board creating the first Masterplan for Downpatrick and has proposed that a new vision be created for the town.

He initially proposed a Town Centre Manager be put in place but there wa sno support for this idea. However, a discussion followed and it was agreed, finally proposed by Cllr Curran to set up a new regeneration Working Group.

“I was glad the councillor supported the need for improvements to Downpatrick. The old Masterplan is still there but we can take elements out of it. A new plan has been put together and will be ratified at the first council meeting in September.

“There will be 14 members on this board, a mix of Downpatrick councillors and local business people. There is some money available from the Department for Communities to kickstart this process.

“It will help local business, job creation, and tourism and the night-time economy. There is much to be done to improve traffic flow and parking still. I am delighted this has gone well and I look forward to progress in the coming months.”


The Downpatrick Regeneration Working Group would have an advisory function, helping to develop ideas and work with various delivery partners as initiatives develop.

If approved, its formation would follow on from significant investment work already underway as part of the Council’s Downpatrick Regeneration Plans.

In partnership with DfC, the Council has been progressing with the redevelopment of the former PSNI station site in Irish Street, Downpatrick, and has recently undertaken a £220,000 regeneration initiative in Church Street.


A new Downpatrick Regeneration Working Group is to be ratified at the next full council meeting in early September.

Newry Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson, Cllr Michael Savage said he was excited to see progress made towards securing a regeneration working group for the town.

Cllr Michael Savage, Chair of Newry Mourne and Down District Council.

Cllr Savage added: “A Downpatrick Regeneration Working Group would offer a vital platform for local businesses — an opportunity to hear their plans for the future and their concerns, and be a central link to government and statutory bodies for advice and funding opportunities.

“Now more than ever the business community wants to come together in Downpatrick to be a driver for new investment and increase town centre footfall. The group itself would discuss the way forward and identify its priorities, and the Council alongside its partners would do all it can to help.

“The potential for Downpatrick as the County Town of Down remains huge and as a Council we are committed to playing our part.”


Enright Seconds Proposal With “Heavy Heart”

Cllr Cadogan Enright, who recently joined the Alliance Party and has the party whip, said he seconded the proposal with a ‘heavy heart’. The Council paid £30,000 for the Downpatrick Masterplan in 2014 and now it is just being ignored and resources seem to be focussing on Newry development.

Alliance Councillor Cadogan Enright seconded proposal with a “heavy heart”.

“One key aspect of the Masterplan for Downpatrick was the creation of New Street – this was from the site of the old police station down to St Patrick’s Avenue. a space of two buildings had been marked to allow for this road and a one-way traffic system round Downpatrick.

“Our town has a medieval road system and there are often long traffic jams which is not good for business or tourism. And the by-pass road beside the new Downe Hospital was partially built and work stopped.

“Altogether there were 22 projects on the old Masterplan which have been abandoned. I find it astonishing that Council has shelved the old Downpatrick Masterplan in favour of a Working Group setting up a new vision. It was supported by the business sector, the community and all political parties back then. It was ready to implement.

“Now they want a new plan, and the proposal by the council officer to set up a Town Centre Manager seems to have been side-lined.”

Cllr Enright added that approximately £35 million is targeted for Newry city centre development but the £3.5 million for Downpatrick has “gone”.

Also he added that “this new board could take five years to draw up a new plan for Downpatrick. It just seems a waste when we had made so much progress in the past just to start again.”


Hanlon Says Working Group Will Deliver Better Vision For Downpatrick

Sinn Féin representatives welcome the establishment of the new Downpatrick Regeneration Working Group saying it will help transform the town.

Cllr Oonagh Hanlon said: “The establishment of this new working group is a great opportunity for us to deliver real change in Downpatrick that will improve the town and the lives of the local community.

(l-r) Supporting the working group proposal are Cathy Mason MLA with Downpatrick Councillor Oonagh Hanlon and South Down MLA Chris Hazzard.

“Sinn Féin have a vision for Downpatrick – we are working with community and business leaders to transform our county town.

“Regeneration projects like that of Irish Street and Church Street are key to building a stronger, more innovative local economy that will attract visitors and create better jobs.

“Through this forum, we will be able to improve communication with local people and business owners and prioritise projects that will benefit Downpatrick now and into the future.”

Cathy Mason MLA added: “Sinn Féin will work hard through this group to not only improve the town centre but prioritise the delivery of schemes such as new greenway links and other green community projects that benefits the health and well-being of our population.

“Strengthening the economy, creating jobs, supporting workers and boosting local tourism is key to regenerating Downpatrick and I look forward to working alongside other parties to deliver for our town.”


(l-r) Alliance Councillor Cadogan Enright , David Lee-Surginor and Andrew McMurray and Patrick Brown, second left.

Brown Disappointed MLAs Blocked From Working Group

Alliance MLA Patrick Brown said: “This working group set up by Newry Mourne and Down District Council is certainly to be welcomed. Hopefully can start to deliver an equitable share of regeneration funding for Downpatrick, which has long lost out in favour of Newry.

“It is disappointing, however, that a councillor from South Armagh blocked the inclusion of South Down MLAs on the working group after a request from Alliance.

“Given 3 of 5 South Down MLAs have offices in Downpatrick, and including them would have also ensured unionist representation and valuable lobbying power at Stormont, I think this was a missed opportunity.

“I hope to do what I can as an MLA to support the Working Group and work with all group members to deliver for Downpatrick and restore our county town.”