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Armagh to benefit in new ABC super council £158m capital spending spree

Armagh is set to be a major benefactor from the new £158 million capital spending spree earmarked by the new ABC council over the next three years.

Various projects are currently at various stages of development across the books of the three current councils.

Work will have to be done by the new ABC council over the coming months and years to consider the feasibility of all those projects moving forward.

However, Armagh could benefit from approximately £76m of that pot with £26m estimated for the Armagh Gaol project, which includes a four-star hotel. A large portion of that project is also being privately funded.

The council document also confirms the already-published Richhill Improvements Masterplan – in conjunction with Keady, with the two plans estimated at £2.3m.

The document was presented to a workshop involving representatives from ABC (Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon) districts, and all the projects will have to receive the go-ahead from ABC before they commence.

Cusher DUP Councillor Gareth Wilson stated: “The figure quoted comes off the back of a straightforward exercise of simply collating together the various programmes that each of the three Councils were working on as ‘individual’ authorities.

“This was done in order to get a clear picture of what types of projects exist across what is the second largest new council area in Northern Ireland. The information will form the basis of a discussion, which will continue in the coming months, as to the direction in terms of capital spend of the new Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council.”

Sinn Fein’s Garath Keating said: “Our view would be that we have to strike a correct balance between respecting the mandate of the current and pre-existing councils and the integrity of their decisions and aspirations on those projects and the need, moving forward however, to prioritise those projects on the basis of the much larger amalgamated region.

“The portfolio of projects is extremely wide and varied, ranging from a proposed £30m super leisure facility in Craigavon (to replace several existing facilities in need of modernisation) to relatively small expenditures on vehicle maintenance for instance). Undoubtedly however the portfolio is also very ambitious, especially given the current financial climate and available public funds.

“Inevitably some of these projects will have to be cut, delayed or significantly scaled back. There will be a lot of deliberation and negotiation within the new council arrangements on this and on how public services and amenities can best be delivered in the most efficient, cost effective and value for money fashion.

“Sinn Féin are very keen to avoid rates increases where at all possible and we will be working extremely hard to ensure that the finances of the new Council are managed in a responsible manner. Whilst this will of course require prudence in spending proposals, it must also take account of the responsibility and onus of the new council to provide the level of facilities and services expected by the public and properly invest in infrastructure to ensure the long term sustainability of those services which will unavoidably incur expenditure.”

In Portadown, a £4m facelift is planned for the Town Hall, with a 2015-17 start date – the feasibility and architectural concepts are completed.

The town area will also benefit from a £2.8m refurbishment of the Carn Depot, and another £1m will be invested in upgrading the Fair Green amenity site, again with a 2015 start.

The Bann Riverside Plan, opening up more walkways on the town side of the river, is part of a £3m waterfront scheme, and the information document, given this week to shadow councillors, states that the design team has started work.

In Central Craigavon, the document firms up the £30m super-leisure centre plan, which will include a 50-metre championship swimming pool, a ‘floating’ playground on the southern lake and there will be a massive sports hall. It is scheduled for completion in 2017-18.

In Gilford, the Phase Two of the Riverside Regeneration is planned – between Gilford Community Centre and Woodlands, including a path encompassing the old Gilford Mill and the Bann at a cost of £636,000.

Craigavon’s single spend will be a £30m leisure centre with refurbishment of Lurgan Town Hall and three community centres also on the agenda.

A sum of £39m is earmarked for Banbridge, with a series of smaller projects, among them a £1m 3G pitch, £500,000 play areas, a £1m linkage scheme and a £450,000 business park.

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