Environmental street scheme gets go-ahead

Environmental street scheme gets go-ahead

6 June 2018

POLITICIANS will later today rubber-stamp a recommendation by planners to approve a much-needed environmental improvement scheme at Irish Street in Downpatrick.

The near £700,000 investment is designed to provide new paving, street furniture and lighting, with the project jointly financed by the Department for Communities and Newry, Mourne and Down Council.

Plans have also been drawn up to improve parking, carry out resurfacing work, provide new railings and litter bins and planting areas.

It also hoped that once planning permission for the public realm scheme is formally approved, the Heritage Lottery Fund will approve a bid to secure funding to spruce up vacant and derelict buildings within Downpatrick’s conservation area which includes Irish Street.

The funding bid has been submitted by the local council and its officials have already met Heritage Lottery officials to progress the application.

The public realm scheme will be the first time public money has been invested at this part of the town in over two decades, but cash has been invested in nearby Scotch Street, Market Street and St Patrick’s Avenue.

Council officials are hopeful the environmental improvement scheme can start within the next few months and are liaising with Phoenix Gas about its plans for Irish Street in a bid to minimise disruption.

Confirmation that planning permission is set to be approved today has been welcomed by Downpatrick councillor Dermot Curran and former South Down MP Margaret Ritchie. 

Cllr Curran described the planning approval recommendation as “excellent news” for residents and business owners at this part of the town which he said is set to be “revitalised.”

He added: “The removal of security measures around the old police base and its subsequent closure have opened up Irish Street as a key redevelopment area. 

“Progress is being made to help revitalise Irish Street and I hope there will be additional funding opportunities to allow vacant space above shops to be redeveloped to provide new living accommodation.”

Miss Ritchie said the work in Irish Street had been due to start last year, with the scheme one she approved while Minister for Social Development in 2009.

“Market Street and Lower St Patrick’s Avenue were subject to a regeneration scheme in 2009 and it was agreed then that Irish Street would be subject to a similar scheme, once the former police station relocated,” explained Miss Ritchie.

“I hope the work in Irish Street when completed will enable further economic regeneration to take place in harmony with the existing built heritage at this part of the town, which would allow new jobs to be created.

“Furthermore, I hope it persuades the Heritage Lottery Fund to approve funding for the regeneration of the existing built heritage in Irish Street.”

Miss Ritchie added: “Such ongoing support for Downpatrick provides a confidence boost in the area and would enable existing jobs to be sustained and make provision for new employment opportunities for our young people.

“I look forward to the completion of the environmental improvement scheme in Irish Street.”