Newtown community ‘disappointed’ at lack of further consultation on play park site

October 8, 2018

Sinn Fein councillor Barra Ó Muirí says the Newtownhamilton community have been left “frustrated and disappointed” by the Council decision to build a new state-of-the-art play park in an area voted against by a large majority of residents who took part in a public consultation on the park.

The new public amenity will be built in Jim Steen Park despite a recent public consultation which saw 101 of 106 residents in attendance voting in favour of an alternative site at the town’s Youth Club.

Mr Ó Muirí said that while the development of the play facility in Newtownhamilton is “a good news story” for the town, many local people are angry that their wishes have not been met. 

He explained that at the first public consultation, approximately 70 people attended, representing the community association, St Michael’s Primary School, St Michaels GFC and other groups within the town.

“Those present were asked to write on a piece of paper which site they preferred. The general feeling leaving that meeting was that the majority voted for the Youth Club Site, although at that meeting it was called St Michael’s GFC site, which caused confusion,” said the Sinn Fein Councillor.

“The second public consultation was a week later, for children, and there were around 30 votes cast that night.”

He disputed the findings in the Playboard NI report which stated that the majority of respondents (57%) voted for Jim Steen Park with 39% voting in favour of the Youth Club site, and 4% voting for another.

“These findings have been disputed since the day they were published,” said councillor O’Muiri.

“I have been inundated with calls, emails and messages on social media asking me to seek further consultation. To be clear, I have no problem with either site, although both have logistical issues, I’m confident these can be overcome.

At Monday night’s meeting of Newry, Mourne and Down Council, Councillor Ó Muirí made the proposal to have one more week of public consultation on the siting of the Park.

“Whilst I was supported by my Sinn Féin colleagues and Independent councillor Cadogan Enright, the SDLP, UUP and DUP voted against it,” said councillor Ó Muirí.

“I find the whole process bizarre, from start to finish. I have worked with the community, for the community.

“The idea of the Youth Club only came up as it was next door to the primary school, the football club, and the Rural Community Centre.”

Ulster Unionist councillor David Taylor said he believed  “every opportunity was offered by Playboard for a full consultation process to be carried out and any further attempt to open the consultation once again would set a very dangerous precedent in terms of how other consultations have been and would be carried out under the Council’s play strategy.

“Most importantly, any further delays in proceeding with the project could place in serious jeopardy the entire proposal for Newtownhamilton to be provided with a brand new state of the art play facility and that would be unacceptable in my opinion.”