- Columba O’Hare
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The Department of Finance said that although it was “considered” that the first tranche of the £16.2million Supplementary Fund money granted to Newry, Morne and Down District Council for Albert Park Basin in Newry, either “used over a four-year period”, they will work with the Council to move the project forward using the funding granted in December 2021, even though the timetable initially estimated by the Council is now “unrealistic”.
This follows queries made to two government departments by Newry.ie after we received conflicting information about when funding for the park was due to be spent.
The DoF adds that although a four-year timeframe was mentioned in the Council’s initial offer to the Supplementary Fund, it only considers it an “estimated indicative timeframe” and that the money is “closed”. Reports seen by Newry.ie suggest the Council will take 7 years to spend the £16.2m and it will only be the first phase which will see the creation of a play park and green spaces, footpaths walking, cycling and running routes opening the site. set up for public access and links to the Voie Verte.
The Department of Communities says Council has provided a revised spending profile “Following the development of a more detailed project delivery plan” and will continue to work with Council on the OBC, approvals and the delivery schedule.
Newry, Morne and Down District Council agreed at Thursday’s SP&R meeting to send a business case to funders, although this specifically only covers the proposed work to be carried out with the funding granted. Once the OBC has been approved, a financing contract must be drawn up before the funds are released.
The Council also agreed on Thursday to “initiate the procurement process for an integrated consulting team to develop the design, submit the planning request and manage construction delivery.” These must be ratified during the plenary assembly of the Council in June.
In its response to Newry.ie, the Department of Finance concludes that all “Funding under the Supplementary Fund is ring-fenced, but it has been envisaged that the first tranche of around £50m will be used over a period of four years. Therefore, the financial implications of any delay will be explored by the Department of Communities and the Department of Finance.”