Craigavon councillors are furious that an ‘inform-the-public’ meeting on the detailed plans for the £6m upgrade of Portadown People’s Park was held on the same night as the monthly council meeting - “barring us from attending the park event”.
The park meeting, involving council officers and the design team, was held in the Town Hall simultaneously with Monday night’s council meeting, after which the councillors attended the launch of Lurgan Park Rally in the grounds of the Civic Centre.
Alderman Stephen Moutray raised the issue in the course of the council meeting, claiming the park meeting was “arranged late in the day by officers – it was planned to suit the design team, ignoring elected representatives who are supposed to be making the decisions”.
He added, “There is much controversy over this plan, and we are doing our best to guarantee that the park becomes a shared space, which is certainly isn’t right now.
“It’s all very well for the officers to exhibit the plan – you can’t argue with that – but people want to liaise with their elected representatives to elicit assurances that the project benefits all sides of the community.”
He added, “This sort of thing happens time and time again in this council. I am calling for an investigation and a full report.”
Portadown representative Alderman Arnold Hatch has written to the director of development demanding an explanation and for a full report from the development committee. “Certain officers in this council think they are running the show, and not the council members,” he said. “I am calling for an apology.
“The officers organised this to suit the design team. Councillors didn’t have a hope of attending this meeting, which was arranged in the middle of last week – we are demanding another meeting so that we can interact with the public and get the entire community involved. We don’t even know what happened at the meeting.”
One member of the public who did attend – Mr Billy McClean from Killicomaine – said that he fully expected councillors to be there. “I wanted to discuss the shared space issue with them, and ask whether the money would benefit all of Portadown,” he said. “It was fine meeting the design team, but there a lot more to this project than that.”
A statement from officers said, “The SPACE project is currently operating in an extremely tight time frame. The information session dates were simply derived from diary availability of the design team, logistics and the recognition that there is very limited disposable time within this project.
“Officers recognised that the council was meeting on Monday night and negotiated that the design team take a flexible approach and be available both before and after the council meeting to ensure that members are included.”