Firms bidding for work on former Downe site

Firms bidding for work on former Downe site

7 February 2024

SEVERAL firms are bidding to complete work on one of the biggest ever social housing schemes in Downpatrick, it has been confirmed.

The news comes after construction workers left the former Downe Hospital site several months ago. Shortly before Christmas, scaffolding was taken down, with storage units and construction equipment taken away.

Clanmil Housing is delivering 66 new homes and 20 apartments specifically designed for active older people in association with developer Milfort.

The builder is currently assessing a number of tenders from contractors keen to complete the new development at the sprawling former hospital site.

A number of new homes have already been built at the former Pound Lane health clinic and St Johns’ House residential home sites, with work underway on redeveloping the main hospital building and the original infirmary at the rear before it stopped after issues arose between Milfort and its building contractor.

Work also stopped on a large extension built at the rear of the original hospital.

The refurbishment of the former hospital and infirmary building — both of which enjoy protected status — is the second phase of the redevelopment scheme at the sprawling site bordered by Pound Lane, John Street and the Killough and Ardglass roads.

Both Clanmil and local politicians are keen to see building work recommence as soon as possible at the site where the refurbishment of both former hospital buildings, in tandem with the construction of new-build family homes, will help transform this part of Downpatrick.

The housing association has been working closely with Millfort to encourage the contractor to find what it described as an “urgent solution” that will ensure the homes are delivered quickly for families who need them.

A Clanmil spokesman confirmed yesterday morning that Milfort is currently assessing tenders received from several contractors to complete the work at the former Downe Hospital site.

“Clanmil continues to liaise with Millfort to deliver these much-needed homes and we anticipate that work will recommence soon,” she added.

News that building work had been halted came after it was revealed last year that there were 483 people on the waiting list for social homes in Downpatrick, with 350 in the so-called urgent need category. 

Local SDLP councillor Gareth Sharvin says he hopes a tender will be awarded soon to complete the social housing scheme.

Cllr Sharvin said there are currently over 450 people on the housing waiting list in Downpatrick, with the number likely to increase as the private housing sector sees increased rental charges.

“The development at the former Downe Hospital site has already had a positive impact on housing needs locally and transformed this part of the town,” he said.

“But the continued development is essential to provide a home for those most in urgent need and contribute to the transformation of the area.”

Cllr Sharvin said everything possible needs to be done to meet the housing needs of those on the waiting list for new, affordable homes, not just in Downpatrick, but across the district.

“Work to appoint a new contractor is good news and I hope it won’t be long before builders are back on site to help with this much-needed social housing scheme which is a critical component if Downpatrick’s social and economic regeneration.”