‘The New council of Newry, Mourne and Down have ambitious hopes to lead and serve a district that is prosperous, healthy and sustainable.’

On April 1 2015 the councils across Northern Ireland changed into what is now known as ‘Super councils.’ The council numbers went down from 26 councils to 11 councils. This is conveyed in the diagram below:

A map of Northern Ireland's new council areas
A map of Northern Ireland’s new council areas

The councils would still retain the same powers as previous councils but now with additional powers. A number of functions which were previously delivered by the NI Executive department are now in the hands of the council these include:

  • Local Planning Functions
  • Off-street parking
  • Local economic developmement
  • Community development (will transfer in April 2016)
  • Urban regeneration (will transfer in April 2016)

See link http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/local-government-reform

In this article I am going to look at Urban Regeneration in the new council area of Newry, Mourne and Down District council.

Newry, Mourne and Down District council is the third largest council area in Northern Ireland with a population of 171, 500 people and a coastline of 100 miles approximately. The council has ambitious plans for its future but claim their biggest challenge is establishing a new organisation and providing seamless change. The next four years of the councils strategic planning is crucial. It will be in this time that they want to deliver and make a real difference to the economic, health, educational and environmental well being of the district.

Last week I spoke with the new Economic Development and Regeneration officer at Newry and Mourne District Council, Sandra Magee. She explained more to be the plans of regeneration for the new Newry, Mourne and Down District council.

‘This is a new era for the district as a new council Newry, Mourne and down district council which was established following the amalgamation of Newry and Mourne District council with Down District council’, said Mrs Magee.

She explained that it is an exciting time for the district but also very challenging. ‘Although recent economic data points to recovery which is well underway and real opportunities for the future economic prosperity we have significant number of areas of social deprivation.’

“Regeneration” is more than just tackling disadvantage across the area said Mrs Magee. ‘It is about making improvements to business premises a concrete aspect of tackling visual disadvantage but we have 5 themes to get in there and cover the nitty gritty. Our council is very lucky to have many assets such as the beautiful natural environment, strategic location on the Island of Ireland and impressive built heritage which we must capitalise on them.’

The Five themes for Newry, Mourne and Down District Council are:

  • Theme 1 Economic Development
  • Theme 2 Tourism Development, making promotion
  • Theme 3 Urban Development & Events & regeneration
  • Theme 4 Rural development and regeneration
  • Theme 5 Culture and the Arts.

The Diagrams below convey examples of how the New council of Newry, Mourne and Down hope to achieve this regeneration:

 

                         Strengths Weaknesses
· Strategic importance of location North/South economic corridor and eastern Seaboard· Strong entrepreneurial tradition·Outstanding natural beauty of the area

·         Availability of wide range of outdoor activities

· Strong agricultural and fishing tradition

·Diverse cultural offering

·Several key cultural assets and active local arts communities

·Good cross border linkages

·Poor connectivity- roads broadband·Business networks fragmented·  Aging workforce

· Natural resources not creating business opportunities/jobs

· Lack of strong, identifiable brand for the region

·Some areas of disadvantage still remain

· Over reliance on domestic and Irish visitor market

· Lack of cohesion of cultural sector and few links with tourism

· Contribution of culture and arts to the economy not recognised

 

                         Opportunities Threats
·Strategic opportunities at warrenpoint & Kilkeel Harbour·Business support for growing businesses· Collaboration with invest NI & Tourism Ireland to attract investment

·Use of the Diaspora, local business champions

· Engagement for colleges & schools

· Mournes as a tourism destination

·Location for outdoor/adventure tourism & food tourism

·Community asset transfer model

· Public/private cultural and tourism partnerships

·Strong cross border linkages and partnerships

·Slow economic growth·Competition from Belfast and Dublin for new investment·Reduced public spending resources

·Currency fluctuation creates uncertainty

·Development pressures

·Political legacy need for rural regeneration

·External negative perceptions of border area as area to invest and visit in

·Concern that much of the focus will be on the ‘Newry’ part of the new council

Below is an example of Newry, Mourne and Down District’s Council Strategic plans:

By 2019, we will have:

  1. Become one of the premier tourism destinations on the island of Ireland;
  2. Attracted investment and supported the creation of new jobs;
  3. Supported improved health and wellbeing outcomes;
  4. protected our natural and built environment;
  5. led the regeneration of our urban and rural areas;
  6. Advocated on your behalf specifically in relation to those issues which really matter to you;
  7. Empowered and improved the capacity of our communities; and
  8. Transformed and modernised the Council, providing accessible as well as value for money services.

 

There is no doubt Newry, Mourne and Down District council are conveying their ‘super’ powers already with their ambitious goals. Regeneration is a huge element in obtaining these. Mrs Magee said, ‘It is important that we achieve these goals but even more important is that we are able to sustain them.’

Given the councils strategic development plans for the future of the district if they ‘were’ able to achieve and maintain these goals then Newry, Mourne and Down District Council will undoubtedly be a ‘Super Council.’

For more information on Newry, Mourne and Down District council please visit the below links:

http://www.newrymournedown.org

Newry Address:
Monaghan Row, Newry, BT35 8DJ, Northern Ireland
Council: 0300 013 2233
Planning: 0300 200 7830
Email: info@nmandd.org

Downpatrick Address:
Downshire Civic Centre, Ardglass Road, Downpatrick, BT30 6GQ

http://www.doeni.gov.uk/index/local_government/local_government_reform

 

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