Funding fear as the £6.8m People’s Park project ‘drags on’
THE ongoing delay in the £6.8 million project to redevelop the People’s Park is detrimental to the future of the whole of Portadown, the Sinn Fein leader on Craigavon Borough Council has said.
Councillor Johnny McGibbon said the project was crucial to the town, in terms of both public facilities and peace and reconciliation, and hit out at the Department of Social Development for “unnecessarily delaying the release of millions of pounds of European money”.
He said further delays could result in the funding being lost and revealed that the issue was being raised with the Permanent Secretary of the DSD.
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.
A spokesperson for Craigavon Borough Council pointed out that the council applied in November 2009 to the Special European Programmes Body (SEUPB) for a £6.8 million grant for the project.
She said, “We got the official go-ahead for the project informally in October 2010. There has been no formal notification since then. As far as we are aware, it has gone to the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP).”
However, it would appear that the project has not reached that stage yet. A spokesperson for the Department of Social Development said the Minister Nelson McCausland was “currently considering” the proposal.
A statement from the DSD said, “The decision of the PEACE III Steering Group to support the project was conditional and subject to approval by the accountable department which in this case is the Department for Social Development (DSD).
“As this project’s expenditure exceeds £2m it requires approval both from DSD and the Department for Finance and Personnel (DFP).
“It was not until the end of February 2012 that DSD was in receipt of all the information it required in order to seek Ministerial approval for the project to be referred to DFP.”
Councillor Mc Gibbon said, “This park will service the whole community and at present, the project has the support of all the political parties in Craigavon Borough Council. The questions therefore that have to be asked are why is this project being held up and why are millions of pounds of European investment being placed in jeopardy?”
He criticised the Department of Social Development under the leadership of both former Minister Alex Attwood and current Minister Nelson McCausland for the delays. “Many in the community are concerned that the necessary approval from the DSD, to allow this project to proceed, is still being withheld,” he said.
“The concerns expressed by the local community have now been echoed by the chief executive of the Special European Project, Mr Pat Colgan, who has confirmed in a letter to Sinn Féin that he intends to raise his apprehension at the failure to grant the necessary approval directly with the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Social Development.”
Mr McGibbon continued, “Sinn Féin wrote to then DSD Minister Alex Attwood as far back as November 2010, and received a response in March 2011 which stated that the delay in the project was because the department was awaiting further information. This was despite the fact that all requested information had been supplied to them. Craigavon Council officers and the SEUPB have also been corresponding with the department in an effort to have the project advanced but to date there has been no further developments from within DSD.”
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Weather for Portadown
Tuesday 21 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 4 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: North west