Sunday’s fire was the sixth I have witnessed in the immediate vicinity of the old A/E in Downpatrick in about 8 months on Health Trust property. It is to be hoped that the subsequent arrests may result in an end to this problem that is adding to the dereliction at the centre of the town.
I was astonished that there seemed to be no fire hydrants at the old hospital, and the water had to be brought up from Irish Street and St Dillons Avenue. This time the fire had been set more thoroughly and the fire swept out of control and filled the skies over Downpatrick with dark smoke.
When I think how hard people of all parties in Downpatrick have worked to develop the new Downshire Public Sector Campus, its a crying shame that the centre of the town has to suffer in this way. When prospective public sector tenants drive up to the new Campus, they must pass a swathe of dereliction stretching from John Street and St Patrick’s Avenue all the way over to the Ardglass Road.
This is debilitating the town, and when added to the unresolved issues of congestion around the town adds up to a mounting emergency that has to be dealt with. The South Eastern Trust needs to explain why it is contributing the biggest share to all of this. Poor property planning, failing to deliver on its share of the new junctions needed to make the campus successful and reduce congestion and failing to deliver on a regular bus service up to the new campus.
It is unlikely such a situation would be permitted to develop in any other part of the South Eastern Trust area. This is a failure of stewardship of public property, failure as a landlord and failure to deliver to the citizens of this area. This issue must be the priority of the new cross-party working group set up by Downpatrick Councillors to tackle congestion around the town and the retention and growth of public sector jobs in the area.