Speaking after the Newry City Centre Regeneration Scheme and 15 Acre Park at the Albert Basin progressed this week Cllr Michael Savage said the city and district stands on the brink of real transformation but that ratepayers “deserved to be given the facts and not whipped up by spin.”
He said: “This week’s decision to move forward with the NCCR Scheme and the Albert Basin Park has the potential to transform our city and district. And I believe it is important to clarify a number of points so that ratepayers are dealing with the facts and not the spin some people feel they can put on them for short term electoral gain without any regard for their responsibilities as a Councillor and their obligation to be truthful to the ratepayers.
“Firstly monies cannot be diverted from the City Deal projects to the Park they are two separate entities and over £130 million of investment is coming to our city and district on the back of signing off the City Deal Proposal Package. The package is one piece of a huge funding jigsaw which is delivered as the sum of all parts. Time and again Councillors have been told this. It cannot just be ignored. To say anything else flies in the face of reality.
“The proposal put forward to move monies was rejected as it goes against the governance structures and Code of Conduct Councillors are compelled to work under. The Councillor who proposed this knows this but still continued in pursuit of a headline. In real terms the proposal was not deliverable and was voted down accordingly.
“There are genuine concerns about the site of the Civic Centre which are acknowledged and recognised and the SDLP ensured that if the proposed site becomes unworkable an alternative site can be sought. That is now enshrined in the decision and was proposed for inclusion by the SDLP. Those concerns can now be addressed through enhanced engagement and dialogue with the public including religious organisations which has also been agreed.
“However our staff deserve to work in 21st Century offices, wherever they end up being located, as Monaghan Row is no longer fit for purpose and we have a duty of care to our staff not to mention a duty to try and attract the decentralisation of Civil Service jobs to our city and district. Why can’t we work towards the development of our city and ensure we deliver a world class Park that is the envy of every city in Ireland but also provide our staff with fit for purpose offices?
“There is still huge work to do to and dialogue to be had to deliver all elements of Newry Regeneration before we get to the Detailed Business Case Stage and huge work to do to deliver the Park through outline and detailed business case. This week we moved all projects forward significantly but in a manner that creates the space for enhanced dialogue and engagement that creates a sense of partnership, brings our citizens with us and ensures their concerns are heard and listened to.
“We also agreed to appoint the Consultant Economists to develop the Outline Business Case for the Park and for mapping to be carried out to see where significant engineering and environmental improvement costs can be reduced and to identify how we can speed the process up so we can move things forward to have boots on the ground and excavation started on the Park as soon as possible to deliver Phase One.
“We have spoken with the engineering experts at length and the Park is a huge body of work and this week we started that work in earnest. The scale of work that has to be done on the Park is massive but Council is committed to delivering it and we are getting on with it.
“In order to take the Park through Planning and secure and allocate funding to develop and excavate the 15 acre site we need to complete the Outline Business Case so anyone saying this is anything other than a statement of intent and action by Council is not being honest with the people and is whipping up emotions needlessly.
“This is what moves the Park forward not a political stunt that attempts to move money from one project to another that cannot be moved due to it being ring fenced as part of the multi million pound stimulus Regional City Deal for our city and district.
“The SDLP has moved every stage of the Park’s development through the process to date that is a matter of record and we did that again by proposing the movement to Outline Business Case this week and we remain more committed than ever to delivering it. The Park is now moving through the stages of delivery.
“My job and that of all Councillors is to work to progress every stage of the Park through Council within the governance and procurement structures we are compelled to adhere to.
“This is happening and this week’s decision was a very positive one and a major step forward for our Park yet others who advocate that they want to deliver the Park don’t seem to understand that or simply choose to ignore it.
“The Park is the SDLP’s priority for Newry and our actions this week reflect that as it moved the project forward to OBC stage which will then lead to funding being allocated and work started.”
SDLP Councillor Michael Savage says ratepayers deserve the facts and not to be whipped up by spin when it comes to the delivery of the Albert Basin Park and the Newry City Centre Regeneration Scheme