ON Friday 15 February, the Department of Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland launched the South East Coast Masterplan at the Kilmorey Arms Hotel in Kilkeel.
The Regeneration Masterplan, a strategic vision, which involves Down District Council and Newry and Mourne District Council is an ambitious initiative to provide guidance on the development of the South East Coast area of County Down. A special emphasis will be on developing the town centres of Newcastle, Kilkeel and Warrenpoint.
The town centre initiatives will include shop front improvement schemes, retail performance programmes, development of vacant and derelict sites, introduction of town centre markets, restore projects, town centre revitalisation projects, urban development grants, vacant unit animation schemes, and a purple flag programme focusing on entertainment and hospitality.
McCausland Launches South East Plan
DSD Minister McCausland said: “The Mourne Mountains is an area of outstanding natural beauty and the towns of Newcastle, Kilkeel and Warrenpoint together have a strong role to play in supporting visitors to the Mournes and the wider South East Region. The Masterplan proposal shows how these three individually distinct centres by working together, can become collectively strong to provide the full tourism offering that will help to drive direct public and private investment in the region.
“Some of the exciting and ambitious proposals in the Masterplan include a Gondola into the Mournes, a premier attraction that could become a signature project for the entire South East Coast. Other proposals include the development and promotion of Kilkeel Harbour to champion its fishing industry heritage and reputation for fine seafood cuisine and a proposal to build on Warrenpoint’s reputation as a centre for watersports, with a new marina providing direct access to Carlingford Lough to support boat trips and visiting cruisers.
“I am confident that the Masterplan launched here today shows how the South East Coast can strengthen its reputation as a high quality scenic destination with rich and diverse range of exciting activities.”
The proposals include:
* In Newcastle, the plan proposes to build on the success of the new promenade by expanding the range of beachside activities offered and create a new signature project ‘The Donard Gondola’, a premier tourist attraction that will allow family groups to explore and understand the Mourne Mountains.
* In Kilkeel, home to one of the largest fishing fleets on the island of Ireland, the plan proposes to promote the working harbour as an attraction for tourists to visit and experience the fish market for themselves. Creating new improved state of the art play parks and improved access points to the beach will help to drive year round interest in the town.
* In Warrenpoint, the plan seeks to promote and develop the town’s reputation as a hub for watersports and activities, utilising its location on Carlingford Lough. Developing a marina would be a major attraction for the town as it would support boat trips and visiting cruise ships.
On his way to Kilkeel, the Minister took time to tour the South East Coast to see and appreciate the regeneration
opportunities offered in the Masterplan.
The Minister added: “The South East Coast enjoys a stunning coastline that runs from Warrenpoint through Kilkeel onto Newcastle, all against the picturesque setting of the Mourne Mountains. This plan shows how we can maximise the appeal of these assets to underpin a sustainable economy by creating new activities and facilities that will drive year-round visitor interest as people want to spend more time exploring, playing and enjoying the area.”
Mayor of Newry & Mourne District Council, Councillor John McArdle said: “Much time and effort by a broad range of stakeholders has been invested in the creation of this Masterplan. It is my hope that a continuation of the close working relationships particularly, between both Councils and DSD, could lead to real progress and delivery of identified projects across the South East Coast region.”
Michael Coogan, Chairman of Down District Council, also added: “The production of the Masterplan allows both Councils to work in partnership to maximise potential development opportunities, at the same time raising the profile of the entire South East Coast at home and abroad.”
The South East Programme intends to develop an integrated strategy for the area by:
* Creating a framework for future investment in the town centres
* Creating a tourist trail of the South East Coast towns
* Promoting complimentary towns
* Creating better links between the towns and the coast/ mountains
* Taking advantage of the all-Ireland tourism drive
* Taking advantage of the current focus on Golf and cultural tourism
* Creating a theme for the towns.
Newcastle To Benefit From SE Coast Masterplan Says Willie Clarke
Newcastle Sinn Féin Councillor Willie Clarke, who attended the official launch of the South East Coast Master plan which was launched in Kilkeel, said after the event: “Among the issues in the plans proposals are possible hotel locations, local food markets and cultural and craft centres. there is an opportunity to have integrated traffic management plans for the three towns, which are essential for economic and social well-being.
“One clear suggestion in the plan, is the need to have a clear brand for the area, this was a message which was continually made to Sinn Féin when we held discussions with stake holders in relation to the national park debate. There was a clear voice that ‘Branding of the Mournes’ should be a priority for Government.”
“The main proposals for Newcastle include the development of a new leisure/ activity centre and a new gateway for the Mourne’s in Donard Park. This would provide the infrastructure for all year tourism to enable Newcastle to compete on a level footing with other similar tourist destinations in Ireland.
“Much needed jobs will be generated by the development of a 3-star hotel and a high quality crafts and retail centre on the current site of the Newcastle centre. This development in the heart of Newcastle will be enhanced by the proposals to redevelop the Castle Park and Islands Park into an Adventure Zone, a Family Zone and an Eco Zone. These proposals will transform Newcastle and significantly increase visitor numbers and footfall in the town.”
O’Boyle Praises Ritchie’s Role in Setting up the Masterplan Initiative
Newcastle SDLP Councillor Carmel O’Boyle attended the launch on in Kilkeel and she said: “This initiative was the brainchild of Margaret Ritchie when she was DSD Minister, so it was good to see the final document that was launched by the present Minister McCausland.
“All we need to do now is make it happen. If one of the three towns got a special mention, it was Newcastle, and the idea to introduce a Gondola that would provide uplift into the Mournes, has really captured everyone’s imagination. The Minister said that such a novel attractions would bring visitors to Newcastle in droves.
“So this is the challenge for all of us now, and we need support from people with an entrepreneurial vision to make this happen for all of us.”
Alliance Welcomes Masterplan for South East Coast
Alliance Party South Down spokesperson Councillor Patrick Clarke has welcomed the launch of the Masterplan for the South East Coast which provides the strategic vision and guidance for the regeneration and development of the three towns of Newcastle, Kilkeel and Warrenpoint over the next 15 years
Councillor Patrick Clarke said: “I welcome some of the proposals in the Masterplan for the South East Coast which include a Gondola from Newcastle into the Mournes. Such an attraction as a Gondola would showcase Newcastle and the Mournes that could become a signature project for the entire South East Coast.”
“The Mourne Mountains is an area of outstanding natural beauty and the towns of Newcastle, Kilkeel and Warrenpoint together have a very important role to play in attracting and supporting visitors to the Mournes and the wider South East Region.”
“The Masterplan proposal shows how these three individually coastal towns by working together, can become collectively strong to provide the full tourism offering that will help to drive direct public and private investment in the region.”
“I am confident that the Masterplan for the South East Coast can strengthen South Down’s reputation as a high quality scenic destination with rich and diverse range of exciting activities in Newcastle, Kilkeel and Warrenpoint.”
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The Masterplan is available to view on the DSD website at http://www.dsdni.gov.uk on the Newry and Mourne District Council website at http://www.newryandmourne.gov.uk and on Down District Councilhttp://www.downdc.gov.uk .