The former Forkhill Army Barracks site is to be sold off – with at least two government departments expressing an interest in buying it.
But they will be up against Newry, Mourne and Down District Council in the race, as the local authority also wants to secure the old military base to ensure a “balanced mixed use development” is realised.
There have already been a number of schemes carried out as part of the overall goals for the site to return to community use after demilitarisation in the south Armagh village.
This has included social housing.
And just last summer saw the completion of £350,000 of environmental improvement works funded by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs and Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.
The Forkhill site is described as a “significant open space in the centre of the south Armagh village”.
Last June, after being derelict for many years, the Forkhill Greenspace Pathway Project represented another phase of development there.
The project resulted in an 800 metre circular pathway with associated lighting being installed around the boundary of the site. At various points along the pathway there now are seated areas, with bulb and tree planting throughout, and artwork depicting imagery associated with the Ring of Gullion, as well as other items in local and national geography and history.
Past development has involved working closely with the local community and groups such as the Forkhill and District Development Association (FADDA) in regenerating the overall site.
Now the Department for Communities – which owns the site – has confirmed it has started the process to sell off the former army barracks, saying it has “no strategic interest in the site”.
As part of what is known as a ‘D1 process’, it has offered the site around local and central government departments.
Councillors are being asked to lending their backing to a recommendation to work to secure the facility for future community purposes.
An official report to NMD Council’s enterprise, regeneration and tourism committee, which meets on Monday, reveals: “At the close of the first stage to register interest, council ensured that it had submitted its application, given the existing Forkhill Greenspace Pathway that it maintains and the desire to deliver on remaining elements of both the masterplan for the site and recently completed village plan.
“With at least two other government departments registering their interest in the site, it is now important to work closely with DfC to see what long-term agreement can be reached to ensure an overall mixed use development of the site.
“Over a 10 year period, council worked closely with DfC, Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, and Forkhill and District Development Association, to bring forward different aspects of the site’s development.
“It is now important that this steering committee continue to work together to review both the previously completed masterplan and village plan, to ensure key projects are delivered on the site as part of any upcoming disposal arrangement.”
Councillors have been informed that it is in “the best interests of the village to ensure that there is a balance to the site’s development”.
The committee will be asked to agree that council officials continue to work closely with DfC to ensure council’s interest in the site is maintained, and any follow-up business cases are completed and submitted to the Department for Communities.
They would also seek to “liaise closely” with DfC and any other registered governments departments to make sure that a “balanced mixed use development of the site takes place”.
In the next financial year, council has already set aside capital cash of £100,ooo – and has match ‘peace’ funding of £50,000 – that could see “some further phase of activity” carried out, as identified in the masterplan and village plan.
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