A community relations ‘heavyweight’ has been called in to help the shared space ethos of the Portadown People’s Park £6.5m project.
Dr Duncan Morrow, former chief executive of the NI Community Relations Council – now a lecturer in community engagement at the University of Ulster – is meeting the council on January 22 to talk to all sides.
A council source said, “Dr Morrow will be there as a facilitator in our bid to engage all sides as the project moves through the various stages. The disquiet among the DUP members of the council is well documented.
“They have been unhappy with the entire project, but there is no stopping the plan now. The designers, Hamilton Architects, have the masterplan ready, it is going out to tender, the contractors will be appointed in March and work will start in April.
“In fact, the planning approval will come before the council next Monday night.”
The project is funded between the European Union, the Department of Social Development and the council, and is designed to make the park available to everyone in the town. There will be a brand new pavilion and all the sports pitches - two football and one GAA - are due to be upgraded.
The plan will also include a lake, a children’s play park, a multi-games area, a garden trail to reflect the history of the former McGredy’s Roses Company and an entrance feature.
Full-time park rangers will be employed to educate the public on the new park and they will be stationed in the entrance feature. The park will be expertly landscaped with additional trees and all the paths will be upgraded.
The lake will be stocked with fish, the games area will be floodlit, and the council is keen that Portadown Park be a mini Lurgan Park which is a facility for the entire community.
The environment will be upgraded, with the Tunnel area brought up to standard in line with the park upgrade. It is expected the structural work on the project will take between 18 and 24 months to complete in time for the EU deadline in the summer of 2015.