LETTER TO DOWN RECORDER IN REPLY TO COUNCIL CHIEF EXECUTIVES LETTER ON VILLAGE GREEN

Sir,

The reply by the Council Chief Executive on his proposed development of our village green in last weeks paper failed to address any of the issues raised by Alan Johnston’s excellent letter the week before.

Councils plan for the lower village green envisages much of it it being turned into an ornamental space like the upper green. The villages own DRAP-funded plan was widely consulted on and sees the lower green as the ‘beating heart’ of the village, continuing to be used as the centre of village life, used for a wide range of community activities.

Examples of the lower green being used in this manner include;

  • The annual village festival
  • The annual fun-fair
  • Used for the mobile cinema which visits Strangford regularly
  • As a mustering point for groups arriving in Strangford before embarkation on the Ferry
  • As a scenic display area for vintage cars during their visit
  • As a place to put the big marque tent for big groups of tourists. For instance the bicycle tour that regularly calls in Strangford for refreshments
  • As a (free) launching and recovery area for boats belonging to local people also for visiting tourists and the emergency services (police, coastguard  and fire services) alike. This has been made more difficult these last 2 years as Council has turned it into an unofficial car-park for people, too lazy to use the ferry car-park provided.
  • As a recreation area for picnics, children playing etc.

When Cllr Cadogan Enright showed us Councils latest proposals last Friday, we had many issues with it;

  • Disagreement over Councils effective change of use from the green’s traditional use as a common area to an ornamental area similar to the upper green.
  • Fencing off the green and surrounding it with shrubs would eliminate almost all the uses the green is currently put to, outlined above.
  • Putting a giant piece of public art in the centre of the tiny bit of green space remaining would wipe out the lower green as a usable social space.
  • We are not happy about losing green grass on the seaward side either. We saw no purpose in paving over the green area. The area beside the quay has been strengthened and protected with a plastic matrix material that allows grass to grow though whilst preventing damage.  The community are happy with this arrangement as it facilitates the lower green as a flexible space that can be used for multiple purposes – extending up from the water during the boat launching season – or reaching down to seaward to create a bigger recreation area for children or for events being held on the green.
  • The proposed fencing and shrubbery would block the drive-in entrance on the village side prevent ingress and exit by vehicles like vintage cars, fairground vehicles, cinema and so forth.
  • No-one seems to want the ‘public art’. If we have to have this we suggest it could go on the upper green which is already used for ornamental purposes – the community does not want the lower green to be converted to another ornamental space as proposed by Council

The Councils compromise proposal simply removes the formalization of car-parking in place of illegal parking on the green. This is not enough of a concession – the community needs the maximum amount of green space for the lower green to facilitate its traditional purposes – and the purpose envisaged in the Strangford Village Plan – i.e. being the beating heart of the local community

We would thank Councillors Cadogan Enright and Liam Johnston for their forthright and public support for us on this issue. We would invite other local councillors to make their views publicly known. We urge all local councillors to get behind the Strangford Community Association.

Diarmuid Riordan, Chair

Gary Laverty, Treasurer

07816868019