Residents’ group making huge difference in village

Residents’ group making huge difference in village

2 October 2019

A NEW residents’ group launched in Strangford at the start of the year is making a major difference and has a number of ambitious plans for the future.

Membership is creeping towards 90, with the group confident that it can increase the number to 100 by the end of the year in one of the Province’s most scenic villages.

The group was launched to provide people with a platform to have issues of concern addressed and to help deliver their various ideas on improving the village.

Those who who helped launch the new group, Gillian Campbell, John Flanagan and Jennifer O’Reilly, have been overwhelmed by villagers’ enthusiasm and their desire to make Strangford even better.

Newry, Mourne and Down Council and the Housing Executive have also weighed in with their support for the new forum for people to float various ideas and discuss how they can be delivered. The new residents’ group is also helping secure new funding.

Gillian explained that the group was launched last January as a result of a lot of conversations with many people who had various ideas on how to progress Strangford, but did not have a forum to do so.

“We simply provided the platform and things have progressed from there,” she said.

“It was clear that many people had the same ideas and wishes as us. When we presented the idea of a new group people were particularly keen to get on board and we are so delighted that they did.

“People want to help drive things forward which is very encouraging. There was a real desire for a fresh start, with people wanting to do many things.  We asked for their opinion on the way forward and what kind of organisation they would like to see provided.”

Gillian said members want to see more community events, explaining that the group’s membership boasts a wide range of expertise and shades of opinion.

“Everything we do is directed by our members. We are completely transparent and working closely with Newry, Mourne and Down Council and the Co Down Rural Community Network who have been fantastic and so supportive. With their guidance, we have been able to secure a number of grants totalling around £10,000.”

Gillian said that the small amount of money which has already been secured can have a massive impact, explaining it will finance a biodiversity planting scheme in the heart of Strangford to add a touch of colour.

“The telephone box has been turned into a mini library and the phone still works,” she continued. “This project was done by one of our members and we want more people to come forward with their ideas. We were also able to secure grant aid for new planters as we all work to help make the village more environmentally friendly,” she added.

Jennifer O’Reilly — who was involved with the old committee in Strangford — said the new group has support from people across the village with all members fully paid up.

“The members are the driving force and people’s enthusiasm, energy and commitment can only benefit Strangford as we all move forward,” she said.

“There are plans for a new community garden at The Links. Residents who live there approached us with the idea, explaining that over recent years they have felt under-represented and have had no input into the village.”

Jennifer also revealed that a number residents do not have a car, limiting their access to goods and services.

She said the residents’ group is also pleased that Housing Executive officials are delighted to get involved in the community project at The Links and hope that the community garden project can be introduced in other towns and villages.