Plan to develop Dunleath Park into sports hub

Plan to develop Dunleath Park into sports hub

18 November 2020

LOCAL politicians are to be asked to weigh in with their support to develop Downpatrick’s Dunleath Park as a centre of sporting excellence to cater for a range of sports.

They are keen for a new 4G pitch to be at the heart of a Newry, Mourne and Down Council investment proposal alongside a so-called bubble to allow outdoor tennis to continue in all weathers and the provision of a new walking path.

Dunleath Park has been at the heart of local sport for many decades catering for soccer, gaelic football and hockey, but little cash has been spent on it, apart from annual maintenance costs.

This week, local politicians from the Lecale SDLP group have called for the park — which is adjacent to Downpatrick’s £16m ultra-modern leisure centre — to be developed as a centre of sporting excellence, insisting that the work is carried out by the local authority as a priority.

South Down MLA, Colin McGrath, said the playing fields at Dunleath Park had been unable to fulfil their full potential over the past number of years. 

He said given the potential of the many sports pitches contained within the park, it would be “incredibly short sighted” not to try and develop them.

“I am delighted to that my party colleague, John Trainor, has submitted a motion at next month’s meeting of Newry, Mourne and Down Council, to provide a 4G pitch, a so-called covered bubble to host tennis, a walking path and more,” said Mr McGrath.

He added: “This is the first step in what I hope will be an incredibly exciting journey for Dunleath Park. I look forward to seeing this project develop and if anyone has any thoughts or ideas as part of this discussion I would be keen to hear from them.”

Describing the facility as an “untapped resource”, Cllr Trainor said Dunleath Park is perfectly sited as it sits beside the town’s ultra-modern leisure centre and busy main route.

“When you visit the park it’s incredible the amount of people that you will encounter either just out for a walk, walking their dog, playing a game of football and more,” said Cllr Trainor.

He added: “Not to attempt to develop Dunleath Park in some way for all the people of Lecale would indeed be short sighted and look forward to submitting my motion to the council Council and the debate and discussion it will undoubtedly create.”

Major new leisure provision has recently been provided across the council area including Downpatrick, Saintfield and Newry, with plans in the pipeline for significant investment in new leisure services in Newcastle.

The call to develop Dunleath Park as a centre of sporting excellence comes after the local council was last week asked to significantly improve leisure provision in Ballynahinch.

Rowallane councillors want the organisation to address under investment in the market town and ensure that enhancing leisure facilities is a critical component of the council’s future investment plans.

The need for ultra-modern leisure provision topped the agenda during a recent online meeting between local politicians and senior council officials, with the need for all options to be on the table moving forward.

Council officials have been asked to examine the potential of extending and upgrading the existing community centre at Windmill Street or a complete new-build, potentially on available land at the town’s Langley Road or at the Newcastle Road.

Politicians say while Ballynahinch has missed out on major local authority investment over recent years, the organisation needs to address this now to cater for the needs of local people and sporting organisations.