Councillors take walking tour of Strabane and Castlederg
28 October 2021
A Council delegation of elected representatives and senior officers took part in a walking tour of Strabane and Castlederg this week to see at first hand the huge potential this area has for further development and enhancement.
The walking tour was organised in response to a notice of motion in July, “calling on the Council’s Chief Executive to organise a walking tour of Strabane and Castlederg to allow, in particular the Derry City based Councillors and Aldermen to view and form their own opinions whether areas within the Council district such as these are subject to disproportionate funding from within Council compared to Derry City.”
The Council officer team met with the elected representatives in Castlederg on Wednesday morning where they visited the Derg Valley Leisure Centre, the Diamond area and the Castederg Police station hearing at first hand from the local elected representatives about the opportunities that exist for the village to be improved and regenerated.
Elected members taking part in the tour outlined to Council officers the need for continued engagement with its statutory partners across all Government departments to provide additional resources and investment in rural communities such as Castlederg and highlighted the important role the rural community has in developing and enhancing the wider Council district.
The Council grouping also travelled to Strabane where they visited the Council owned Alley Theatre and Conference Centre before taking a walking tour of the Strabane town centre including Abercorn Square, Castle Street, Main Street, Bridge Street, the Police Station, Coutrai Park, Market Street and the Canal Basin.
Elected representatives from the Strabane DEA taking part in the tour highlighted the opportunities that exist in Strabane town centre for additional investment, resources, forward thinking and creativity to allow Strabane to reach its full potential.
Following the walking tour, elected representatives were provided with a presentation giving an overview of the continued investment by Council in the Strabane district since the formation of the new Council.
The presentation led by the Council’s Chief Executive John Kelpie outlined how over £100m worth of capital monies have been secured or committed to a range of projects in the former Strabane District Council area that include the major City Deal investment plans for Strabane, the Melvin Sports Complex Regeneration; 3.5km of greenway in Strabane; the Strabane Revitalisation Shop Front Scheme and the Riverine project.
He added that there has been significant investment in Playparks in Newtownstewart, Sion Mills, Melvin, Fountain Street & Patrician Villas, the Magheramason play park & MUGA, the Sion Mills Heritage Led Masterplan and Killeter Forest Trail as well as the play area at Crilly Park. The Glenmornan /Glebe Exercise Trail, Castle site Castlederg Shared Space Project and the Changing pavilion at Donemana, as well as allotments in Strabane and Castlederg.
The Chief Executive emphasised to elected members that this hugely ambitious and exciting suite of capital projects are currently being progressed. They include the c£78m Strabane Regeneration Project in City Deal; the £4.6m Strabane Town Centre Public Realm Scheme; the €8.5m Riverine Project and the Shared space community park, the pedestrian bridge from Strabane to Lifford and the North West Greenways Project Strabane/Lifford.
He said a further range of play parks/walking trail/sculpture trail/ pitches/ recycling centre projects are being planned across the district and that Council teams are working with elected representatives in terms of the financing and prioritisation of these projects as we move forward. He added that while Council had invested significantly in the town and region it remains committed to further investment in the town and neighbouring villages moving forward.
Regeneration Officer with Council, Tony Monaghan told elected members how the £5m Strabane town centre public realm project business case is complete and is with the Department for final approval, with an estimated start date of Autumn 2022 subject to funding approval.
He also provided details of the ongoing post COVID recovery work and revitalisation project that is ongoing and details of a planned painting scheme to commence early next spring. He outlined details of the €9m SEUPBB Peace IV Riverine cross border project, confirming it has an estimated start date of 2022 subject to planning approval
The Director for Health and Community Karen McFarland explained how over £5m capital investment has been spent on Melvin that includes a new 3g pitch, over £1m upgrade of stadium facilities, an outdoor play area, phase 1 upgrade & new equipment and fencing with £1.5m secured for a multi-sports facility.
The delegation also received an update from the Council’s Director of Business Stephen Gillespie and Head of Business Kevin O’Connor, in relation to the Strabane BID and Strabane town centre management including details of how businesses voted in support of a second 5 year term and a business plan that could see over £600k additional investment in the town centre, being developed. In terms of COVID Recovery Grant support, of the 222 successful applications, 89 were awarded in Strabane and 38% of funding in monetary terms has been distributed to the Strabane area.
Aeidin McCarter, the Council’s Head of Culture provided details of the investment and ongoing progress in tourism, arts and cultural initiatives in the Strabane district. She provided information on then number of exciting initiatives that are progressing including the establishment of the Sperrins partnership, the Sperrins Sculpture Trail project and Heritage site and the International Appalachian Train including the Castlederg hub. Information regarding the ongoing development plans and initiatives at the Alley Theatre and the progress in the tourism initiatives such as Slow Adventure Trail were also provided.
She outlined the Council’s ongoing commitment to investment in festivals and events including the St Patrick’s Day celebrations in Strabane, the North West Angling Fair, the Strabane Lifford Half Marathon and the Sperrins and Killeter Walking Festival. She informed elected members how this year’s Halloween offering in Strabane includes a fireworks display and a Hay Bale Sculpture Train with 12 installations and that plans are in place for Christmas Lights Switch On event.
A key element of the presentation was the commitment by Council to put rural issues and needs top of the agenda. Members heard from the Council’s Legacy Director Oonagh McGillion how a Rural Issues Group has been established since January 2021 as a Thematic Sub Group of the Strategic Inclusive Growth Partnership, with the first meeting being held in March with five subsequent meetings between April-September.
Members attending the tour were informed that the officer team would take forward the comments and views of elected members and Council’s commitment to investment across all parts of the Council area including Strabane, Castlederg and other rural areas was reiterated to everyone in attendance.