Stakeholders at the Newry City Park project have written to the Department of Communities requesting an alternative delivery of the project.
See letter below:
“Dear Permanent Secretary,
We are writing as stakeholders in the Newry City Park project to bring to your attention a number of challenges currently facing the project, and to request that you consider an alternative delivery mechanism for the project.
The campaign for the park has been a great testament to the spirit and vision of the people of Newry. The fact that the community was able to secure £16.2m in funding in 2021 was a huge step forward for the campaign. We are grateful to your department for its support and to those elected representatives who helped our campaign along the way.”
“We believe that this project has the potential to be hugely transformative for the city, which has suffered from decades of lack of infrastructural investment. The park promises to improve physical and mental wellbeing, restore civic pride, and link Newry to the wider tourism strategy for the region. It will trigger a fundamental change in how our city is viewed by others and the expectations we have as citizens, and will drive economic growth for years to come.
It is because of our commitment to the vision of a world-class city park that we wish to bring these issues to your attention to a number of serious challenges facing the project:”
1) Firstly, the costs of the project are extremely high compared to other park projects that have been completed in recent years. We believe that a more cost-effective plan can be delivered with a more pro-active approach to delivery and with positive commnuity engagement. Given the large amount of public funds involved, it is vital that this project delivers value-for-money.
2) In addition, we are concerned that the original vision for the project has been abandoned. When the community began this campaign, they made it clear they were demanding a world-class city park. Unfortunately, the current plans fall well short of this aspiration. We strongly urge you to take steps to ensure that the park lives up to the ambition that was originally promised.
3) We have also have serious concerns about the level of stakeholder engagement and inclusion. The current structures do not allow stakeholders to meaningfully influence decision-making, which will inevitably impact the ultimate success of the project. Public engagement needs to be genuinely transparent and consultative if the design of the park is to reflect the wishes of the local community,
4) Finally, we believe that the proposed timelines for the project are insufficiently ambitious compared to similar projects that have been delivered elsewhere in the UK and Ireland. Based on professional advice that we have received, we believe that an accelerated delivery schedule is achievable, potentially reducing costs due to inflation in the current economic climate.
In our opinion these problems have arisen due to the current project structures, and until those structures are addressed the project will continue to struggle. For that reason we believe that the Department should consider an alternative delivery mechanism for the project. Two options in particular stand out:
(a) The first option is for the Department to retain control of the budget and use its experience in delivering large scale capital programs to ensure that all stakeholders are fully represented in the delivery of the project. This would enable greater control and oversight by the Department, while still ensuring that all stakeholders have a voice in the decision-making process.
(b) The second option is the creation of an independent Trust or Limited Partnership with representation from all key stakeholders, as has been used to deliver other public projects in the UK. This would allow for a more inclusive process, ensuring that the needs of all stakeholders are taken into account. It would also allow for more flexibility and responsiveness, which would be beneficial given the complexity and scale of the project.
In conclusion, we are fully committed to the success of this project. It is inevitable that a project of this scale and ambition will face challenges along the way, and as advocates for the park we feel obliged to highlight those challenges in order to ensure that they are quickly and effectively addressed. In this spirit, we have outlined well-established solutions to address these issues and ensure that the park is delivered to the high standards that our community deserves.
We hope that you will recognise the seriousness of the challenges we have outlined and work with us to deliver a park that Newry can be proud of for generations to come.
Brian Cleland, Newry 2020
Columba O’Hare, Newry.ie
Column Sands, Rostrevor Action Respecting the Environment
Debbie Brennan, Youth Action Northern Ireland
Fiona McAlinden, Our Lady’s Grammar School
Francis Gallagher, Daisy Hill Hospital Action Group
Grainne Powell, Sticky Fingers Arts
Helena Young, Newry Maritime Association
James McConville, Newry Urban Sports
Maurice McConville, Newry 2020
Myrddin James, Silvery Light Sailing
Oliver McGauley, National Coarse Fishing Federation of Ireland
Shirley Forshaw, Newry GP
Tanya Duffy, Inland Waterways Association of Ireland