Downpatrick and Lecale Councillor Cadogan Enright attended the launch of the new town Master plan last week. Cllr Cadogan Enright said “There are some excellent points in the plan like the acceptance that “in-town” shopping needs to be developed around the bus-station, and that the proposed ring-road needs to go around the east and the south of the town. I have campaigned for these points in the past to ensure the sustainable development of the town going forward. It is essential that our infrastructure is developed to allow us to be one of the towns where public sector jobs can be outsourced. We have been ruled out as not meeting the criteria for decentralisation of jobs as we stand”.
The Downpatrick councillor continued, “However there are some really awful bloopers in the plan that you would have expected the DSD to have picked up on, especially when local people, including myself, had pointed them out in the consultation process.”
“The plan envisages building on half the flood-plain and flooding the other half and reclaiming a large part of Downpatrick Marsh for sports fields. This will potentially expose the town to great danger in the future. Downpatrick is already the lowest-lying town in Ireland with the centre almost half a meter below sea-level. Removing the flood-plain is a really bad idea, and professional planners should know better”, said councillor Enright.
Councillor Enright pointed out that there were issues with transport links too. “It is alarming to say the least that the A25/B8 to Newry is not shown in the plan as a primary link for the future. Without the A25/B8 and the direct buses to Dublin Airport noted we relegate ourselves to a suburb of Lisburn/Belfast rather than an important regional centre in Ireland as a whole. Instead the plan shows the dreadful B177 to Lisburn as one of our main two strategic corridors. Clearly our 3 main roads are A24, A7 and the A25/B8. The overall diagram on page seven looks like one written by someone from Belfast unaware of the districts links with Newry and Mourne and unfamiliar with the fact that the A25/B8 carries a lot of our private sector traffic and compares with the A7 and Ballynahinch Road (B24) for public sector traffic.”
“The Town seems to be in the process of losing its direct bus connections to Dublin and Dublin Airport with hardly a comment. These have one of the greatest concentrations of Tourist traffic in Western Europe. The seven million tourists who arrive at these locations annually are exactly the sort of Tourist that would be drawn to “St Patrick”, “The Mountains of Mourne” or any of our outdoor attractions”, said Cllr Enright.
Cllr Enright pointed out a number of other smaller errors or omissions too. “Examples include;
1. The railway society secured lottery funding for the new link to the St Patrick’s centre, and this is shown in the Master Plan – but the council has inexplicably gone cold on this idea since the SDLP voted against it and the Railway society was forced to return the money to the National Lottery. If we show the link, then we need to support the Railway society in achieving it.
2. Northern Ireland Water seems determined to put their new sewerage pumping station in the middle od the car-park at the back of the post-office, if they do this the plan for the in-town shopping centre will be stymied. I have repeatedly brought this up at the Downpatrick area meetings and have had cross party support – but NI Water persist with the proposal.
3. There are no timelines pencilled into the plan, with no figures calculated even in draft, and vague references to short-term, medium-term and long-term for which no definitions exist within the report. If the plan is to happen it needs to be believable.
Councillor Cadogan Enright Concluded “The Master Plan envisages the biggest changes to the natural environment since the creation of the Quoile barrier, the draining of the Lough or the new Belfast Road. No process to deliver an environmental impact statement is envisaged in the report, nor are issues dealing with changes in weather patterns addressed –vital to a town whose centre is almost half a meter below sea-level.”