Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Council unaware of funfair set up at NLC site

By Diarmúid Pepper

Newry City Councillor Charlie Casey has said he is concerned about the appearance of a Fun Fair at the Newry Leisure Centre (NLC) site, which was apparently erected without the prior knowledge of local residents and councillors.

While Casey says he is satisfied with the general health and safety aspects of the site, he had raised concerns about the ability of an ambulance to access Jennings Park in the case of an emergency wherein an Air Ambulance had to land.

“These situations do happen, that is why ‘risk assessments’ are carried out”, Councillor Casey said.

Speaking to The Examiner, he expanded upon the issues at play.

“The first that I heard of it- and I’m sure other councillors were in a similar position – was when the Fun Fair was actually in place and about to start operating at the Car Park of the Sports Centre.   So we were getting complaints from local residents who live close to it, who were of the opinion that they didn’t receive proper notification.

“I knew that I hadn’t been informed of it at any committee [meeting] I was at.  Apparently, despite the fact that the Council Health and Safety Department knew nothing of the Fun Fair proposal, a Council Officer gave the go ahead under ‘delegated authority’. 

“Effectively this means that the granting of permission for such applications can be done so without informing local elected representatives. There has been, as far as I’m concerned, no consultation and no neighbourhood notification.”

Local residents were concerned about the health and safety of the site, but having visited the area, Casey says these fears have now been allayed. 

 “Some people have come to me with health and safety concerns. I phoned our local Health and Safety Officer who went out with another Council official and they inspected the area.  Almost immediately after I was aware of this, we were down here scrutinizing it and there are no health and safety issues.  The site is secure and well supervised.  They are happy that there are no health and safety issues.”

Casey now intends to raise the issue of how so big a structure was able to be erected without the prior consent or knowledge of both local residents and councillors.

“The main issue was that it was able to be set up without the councillors being consulted,” he said.  “There are six Newry City councillors.  At the very least, it should have come before us and we should have been told that this was about to happen.  We should have been asked for our views on it, but that didn’t happen. So it is in place now and will continue until completion. 

“Later on, I will have a discussion with the Council as to the whole issue of Council officials having delegated authority to put something like this into place. It actually rules out the effectiveness of local councillors, that’s what I am drawing from this.”

Casey also told The Examiner that the proper procedures need to be adhered to: “There has to be proper protocols in place. The Council official informed me that the next people could come at any time and at any Council property and he would have the authority to grant it or not grant it, provided that health and safety was checked and that the site was secure.  Yet groups and communities have to attend meetings and jump through hoops to get use of Council facilities and resources. 

“I intend on raising this issue at full Council as I believe applications like this, which require consultation and community sensitivity, should be discussed with the area’s elected representatives.”