Environmentalists launch campaign to save parkland

A GROUP of concerned environmentalists have launched a campaign to protect parkland earmarked as the site for Craigavon’s new leisure centre.

According to Craigavon Council the £25 million leisure centre will take up just two per cent of Craigavon City Park.

But a Facebook page entitled ‘Save Craigavon City Park’ was set up recently with the aim of protecting the natural habitat of species living in the 97 acres of parkland.

Several people have commented on the public page with strong feelings about the park.

Dan McAlinden wrote, “Taking away our lakeside park would be like New York taking away Central Park or London taking away Hyde Park.”

Other concerned users of the parkland suggested the group should use the fact there are a number of protected species in Craigavon City Park to stop the development from being located there.

Planning permission has been granted for the new leisure centre but work is not expected to start until 2014.

The cover picture for the ‘Save The City Park’ campaign page is a map of the new location for the leisure centre taken from the council’s website. It shows the entire Craigavon City Park outlined in red.

A council spokeswoman said, “The area outlined in red being used on our website is purely to show people the actual location of the South Lake site. It’s important to restate that the new £25 million leisure centre will be located within a small area of the South Lake – not the whole site.

“It is very encouraging to see that people care passionately about this haven for wildlife. It may be helpful therefore to state some facts about the new leisure centre.

“The new leisure centre’s exact location on a site adjacent to the South Lake is yet to be finally decided. A design team for the project is to be appointed early in 2013 and at that stage they will be looking at the best location for the new centre.

“What we can say is that the South Lake zone is 97 acres in total – the new leisure centre will take up around two acres which equates to about two per cent of the site.

“As a sustainable council, we too are very concerned about the environment, and as such have already had discussions with the NI Environment Agency about the plans for a new leisure centre. We will continue to liaise very closely with the NI Environment Agency informing them of our plans throughout the project. Our Conservation Service staff are also involved and are providing advice on the habitats and species at the lakes and how these can be enhanced.

“In addition, the council has given a commitment to maintaining the biodiversity of the Lakes by the establishment of a Local Nature Reserve. Recently there has been an investment to improve and conserve the wildflower rich meadows in the South Lake zone.

“It is intended that the new building will achieve a BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) Award through assessment of its environmental performance in all matters relating to environmental sustainability, including energy, water use, pollution and ecology and there will be opportunities to enhance aspects of the site’s biodiversity through the construction work on the new building and its surrounds. This could include, for example, the installation of swift nesting boxes and bat boxes and planting of native species.

“Council has already met with a range of groups including schools, sporting organisations and members of the public and we are always keen to engage with new groups and answer their queries.”