IT’S all system go for the £7.2 million redevelopment of Portadown People’s Park, with the European Union coming up with £6.5m to get the project started right away to meet the March 2015 deadline for completion.
The good news was reported to Monday night’s in-committee session of the council, and the Civic Centre’s letter of acceptance must be with the Brussels Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB) by the end of August - a timetable described as “extremely challenging” by council officers.
Europe is offering £6.5m towards the project where £4.6m will be spent on the actual park and £2.6m on the ‘Tunnel’ approach to the park. And while the project is being constructed, there will be a community relations programme on-going so that the park can be used by all sections of the community. This is being co-ordinated with the SPACE organisation which specialises in that aspect.
In its ‘confidential’ document, the council points out that the redevelopment of the park is “a critical catalyst to the economic regeneration of Portadown town centre, coupled with the upgrading of the nearby train station”.
And the council is setting up a steering group to see the project through - one from each of the Civic Centre’s political parties, and representatives from bodies like Translink, the DRD and the town’s Chamber of Commerce.
The plans for the park, which were put forward in November 2009, include a new pavilion and the upgrading of the pitches - two football and one Gaelic. There is also to be a lake, stocked with fish, a large children’s play park, a floodlit multi-games area, a garden trail to reflect the history of the former McGredy’s Roses company and an entrance feature.
The proposals include landscaping the park with additional trees and upgrading the paths and entire environment, with the Tunnel area brought up to standard to tone in with the park upgrade. The council applied in November 2009 to the SEUPB for a £6.8 million grant for the project, and councillors are delighted that the money has at last come through.
The project will require three new staffing members, a condition laid down by the SEUPB - a full-time park development officer, with two part-time assistants. And Monday night’s report contained scepticism “from one member, especially regarding one side of the community”. But it was stated that the longer the project was delayed, the “harder it would be to convince people it would come to fruition”.
The report also stated that “the project would require community buy-in and local ownership”.
The Peace III organisation, which is underscoring the project, is due to end late in 2015, thus the urgency to get the scheme moving.