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Taking back control: New Rushmere railway station would ‘benefit the wider area’

A new railway station and park and ride facility next to Rushmere Shopping Centre would benefit the wider area.

That’s the view of the Council’s Economic Development and Regeneration Committee chair, Councillor Brian Pope, who has called for Councils to be given greater control of their own destinies.

The Banbridge councillor believes a sustainable transport hub in Craigavon would be a massive boost to the region and that the often-muted multi-million pound development would really help people travelling from Armagh.

Councillor Pope said the initial powers granted to Councils in 2015 has allowed for them “to take more control over our own destiny”, however, is also true that “much of the funding and strategic planning still comes from the Executive Departments and their associated agencies”.

“In normal circumstances, there exists a working arrangement where local councils’ apply to the Executive for individual project funding or to make the case for changes to policy or regulations,” he added.

“However, we are now in exceptional circumstances where quick decisions are essential for recovery and strategic decisions are required to suit our unique local requirements.

“This is highlighted by the recent decision by the Minister for Infrastructure to ask councils to relax the rules for on-street cafes and bars and also the Department’s investigation into potential widening of pavements to help with social distancing.

“The decision to provide more flexibility on pavement use is welcomed, subject to ensuring disabled access is maintained, and greater pedestrianisation is something that is increasingly seen as a way to help revitalise our towns.

“But without visibility of these decisions or the processes, timescales and likelihood of funding it is extremely difficult to plan for the medium or longer term.”

Councillor Pope said funding decisions and the development of our townscapes will have a huge bearing on the success of our economic recovery.

Pointing towards a transport hub in Craigavon, Councillor Pope stated: “I believe that a new railway station and park and ride facility in the Rushmere area could create an economic development and sustainable transport hub which would benefit the wider area, including those travelling from Armagh.”

He added: “Connectivity is key and enhanced transport links with Belfast and Dublin, the strategic development of the A1 corridor in Banbridge, and sustainable linkages to build our tourism sector could create new jobs and opportunities. Successfully connecting people and places.

“However, the correct powers and funding decisions are needed to deliver any strategic plan and vision.

“A closer partnership arrangement between councils and the Executive Departments would be a good start. But in these unprecedented times, where pressure is building on businesses, jobs and our citizens there could well be a clamour for greater local control.”

Councillor Pope concluded: “As shops reopen and we all adjust to these ‘new normal’ conditions our attention moves to the economic recovery phase.

“But at this critical moment we should ask ourselves if we have the necessary powers and control over local decision making to deliver the outcomes that our citizens require.”

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