Dear Fellow Councillors,

I met with members of the Strangford Community Association on Friday as promised and here is my report back to you as requested.

The Community Association agreed that they had indeed met with Marie Ward and her staff and reviewed her proposals back in 2011, but had explained to her at that time that what Council was proposing was way off the mark, and would render the lower green unusable for the community. Hence they were enormously surprised when an almost identical plan came back as part of the Mournes Coastal Route plan.

As you know, DRAP has, since then, funded a Village Plan which, following much local consultation,  is widely supported by the community. It has the backing of the Festival Committee. The Inverbrena hall committee and local sports and other clubs.

This SCA plan sees the lower village green continuing as the centre of village life, in the community and being used for a wide range of community activities.

Examples of the lower green being used as a multi use venue for events 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.

Thus you will understand that when I shared Marie Wards plan with the community  members, there was a very negative reaction. Key local objections included;

  • Disagreement over her effective change of use from the green’s traditional use as a common area.
  • Fencing off the green and surrounding it with shrubs would eliminate almost all the uses the green is currently put to, outlined above.  The proposed shrubs would have to be resistant to regular salt water flooding!
  • 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.
  • They were not happy about losing green grass on the seaward side either, they 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 and so forth.
  • No-one seems to want the ‘public art’. If we have to have it they 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 Strangford Committee plan envisaged the area where the old bus stop used to be (outside Kevin Óg’s) being set back to accomadate buses without blocking traffic. Local people DO NOT WANT the two cherry trees to be cut down as envisaged by the Council Plan, The Council plan incorrectly labels the ferry shelter as a bus shelter in its plan, this is not a bus-stop. The local community regards the new ferry shelter as an eyesore and worse than useless as a protection from the elements, and wants the old shelter in the ferry terminal to be re-opened.
  • People are concerned that the paddling area is marked as ‘redevelopment’. This area needs its pebble beach renewed, but does not need redeveloped. The association noted that sand attracts oil from the ferry and elsewhere, but pebbles stay clean

Marie’s compromise Council  diagram simply removes the formalisation 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

Given the fact that it is clear that Council Management appear flatly determined to press ahead with their plan, only a consensus by councillors which states that the key aspects of the Strangford Village plan must be observed, is likely to stop management pressing ahead against the clearly articulated views of the local community, as expressed in their village plan,

I hope we can weigh in behind the local community on this, we basically need to tell the Mournes Coastal Project team that they have got it badly wrong in Strangford, and to remove the points objected to above – and include the proposals in the DRAP-funded village plan

Can I suggest an early meeting to instruct management on ‘the will of the council’.

Please feel free to call me if you have any questions

Cllr Cadogan Enright