Plans for new leisure facility in Newcastle

Plans for new leisure facility in Newcastle

10 July 2019

AMBITIOUS plans for a new community centre in the heart of Newcastle are expected to include an indoor water facility, it has emerged.

Consultants have been appointed by Newry, Mourne and Down Council to complete a feasibility study on new leisure provision in the resort, with the current Newcastle Centre and adjoining Tropicana outdoor swimming pool the favoured site.

Last October, the Recorder exclusively revealed that plans for a major new leisure facility in the heart of the town were back on the agenda, with consultants set to be asked to carry out a study of potential sites.

Two locations were previously identified for a new multi-million pound leisure centre, with sports pitches at Donard Park the preferred option.

However, councillors subsequently switched attention to the former St. Mary’s Girls’ Primary School campus at Shanslieve Drive.

Despite a number of attempts to secure the site and hopes that a deal could be agreed, it was bought by supermarket giant Lidl which recently secured planning approval for an ultra-modern new store.

Recognising that Newcastle is one Northern Ireland’s premier tourist resorts, council officials are keen to deliver a new indoor facility which people can use all year round.

Politicians are also keen for the local authority to take the lead and ensure a facility which has been talked about for decades is finally delivered in Newcastle — one that includes some form of indoor water facility.

The council is keen to ascertain the proposed redevelopments costs for the entire Newcastle Centre site which includes the outdoor Tropicana pool and tourist information centre, the latter of which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary.

Council officials want to know what the costs are so the scheme can be included in the local authority’s capital development programme. They are keen to look at a mix of community facilities alongside some sort of indoor water leisure type facility which will replace the ageing Tropicana.

In addition to plans for a new community centre, work is continuing on plans to secure a multi-million pound tourism bonanza for the resort through a series of innovative proposals.

They are aimed at overhauling current tourist provision and significantly increasing the number of overnight visitors to the resort as part of the City Deal initiative.

A project board has been set up to help oversee the proposed investment initiative in Newcastle, with the local authority one of five councils paired with Belfast City Council, universities and the private sector who hope to bid for a share of a £1bn investment package to fund a series of future projects, including tourism.

The local authority and its City Deal partners have committed £100m to help deliver a raft of schemes, with the remainder of the cash coming from the Treasury and Northern Ireland Executive. It is anticipated that the city deal initiative has the potential to help the councils create 20,000 new jobs over a 10-year period.

City deals are designed to allow councils to take charge and responsibility of decisions that affect their area, do what they think is best to help businesses grow, create economic growth and decide how public money should be spent.

Newry, Mourne and Down Council is hoping to secure £35m from the NI Executive and is committing £7m of ratepayers’ money to fund highly ambitious proposals in Newcastle aimed at shaping future tourist provision in the resort which form the core of its Mourne Gateway Project.

Exciting proposals to significantly enhance tourism attractions to draw international visitors to world class attractions in the resort include a gondola ride into the heart of the mountains and a visitor centre at the site of the old quarry at Thomas’ Mountain. 

Other proposals include an Alpine coaster ride enabling people to hurtle down the side of the mountain on a single track in a buggy, an indoor activity centre in Donard Park, elevated tree top walk in Tollymore Forest Park and a new visitor centre and bird hide at the Murlough Nature Reserve.

The various proposals remain at an early stage and continue to be developed, with the next steps involving the development of a full outline business case for the overall project.