Town Centre's deserve better from government

North Down Alliance Councillors have slammed what they describe as a "shambolic approach" adopted by government departments concerning Public Realm schemes in Bangor, Holywood and Donaghadee.

With the schemes now coming to an end Departments for Social and Regional Development are each responsible for follow on actions such as roads resurfacing and funding to help traders recover after the significant disruption endured.

Department for Regional Development have refused to fund vital road resurfacing schemes in each town whilst the Department for Social Development have only offered a small pot of Revitalisation Funding at the last minute rather than the required funds to boost trade in each town following the disruption occurred.

Commenting on matters, North Down Alliance Councillor Andrew Muir stated "Rather than a joined up strategic approach we are witnessing abdication of responsibility, buck passing and a mediocre response which is endangering the long term benefits of the multi million pound Public Realm schemes. With new pavements, street lights, benches, public art and other elements now in place as part of the Public Realm schemes the Department for Regional Development should be coming forward with necessary road resurfacing schemes to compliment the high quality foot paths.

“Instead we are being told that current worn road surfaces will have to do despite having been dug up and in need of resurfacing after years of use. I have already written to Transport NI requesting action but with no success and will therefore raise the issue with the new DUP Regional Development Minister Michelle McIlveen MLA in the hope that sense will prevail."

Master Plan delivery jeopardised

After months of disruption, funding to help traders get back on their feet has also been cut and offered to businesses with only a few days to respond. Alliance Councillor and Donaghadee Steering Group Chair, Gavin Walker said" The decision by Mervyn Storey DUP Minister of Regional Development to postpone the transfer of regeneration powers to Councils has placed the delivery of ambitious and exciting Master Plans in jeopardy. The recently completed Public Realm work was to be the start of a period of development for our towns – not be an end in themselves.

“The Minister has made this decision despite the promise of the transfer of Regeneration powers to Council as an integral part of the Reform of Local Government. So his statement that ‘now is not the right time to go ahead with the transfer of these key DSD functions to councils,’ is both disingenuous and a body-blow to the Steering Groups which have been preparing to deliver many of the exciting aspects of the Master Plans.

“Our hopes to create an outstanding tourism destination in Donaghadee with the creation of the Commons Coastal Path and Crommelin Eco Park have been unnecessarily put into jeopardy with us being left floundering after this incredible last-minute moving of the goalposts by the Minister.

“If we are to have any hope of delivering even small parts of the Master Plans we need to have more funding with a more strategic approach rather than a small pot now and no guarantee of anything in the future. I have raised my concern with DSD officials and will be writing to the Minister on behalf of the residents of Donaghadee to express my disappointment in the strongest terms.”