A local development plan has recommended Crossmaglen lose its status as a town and be downgraded to a village.
And fears have been voiced that such a move could damage the border town – particularly after Brexit – and hinder future development and investment.
The move to reclassify Crossmaglen can be found in the latest local development plan compiled for Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.
The paper was presented to the council’s December meeting of its strategic, policy and resources committee.
SDLP Slieve Gullion Councillor Pete Byrne said he was “shocked” to learn it had been earmarked for reclassification under the development plan.
He proposed that it retain its town status – a proposal accepted by the committee but yet to be ratified – having warned of the consequences for Crossmaglen is such a move were to go ahead.
“It’s extraordinary that this proposal was made considering how far Crossmaglen has come in terms of infrastructure development over the last number of years,” said Councillor Byrne, “This is why I proposed during the committee that Crossmaglen should retain its town status in order for local people to benefit from its continued growth.
“I was also keen to highlight the document’s blatant contradiction in its criteria which became the basis for Crossmaglen’s proposed reclassification.
“In the document it states that, although some settlements like Crossmaglen have a significant number of services like a Health Care Centre, Fire Station and local Library, its population of only 1608 does not justify it being classified as a small town.
“However, it later states that population size alone should not dictate the classification alone but take into consideration the range of facilities provided and the ability to serve the wider area.
“It’s incredible to think that the reclassification of Crossmaglen from a town to a village came down to contradictory criteria within this document.
“Without its town status Crossmaglen would not have benefited from developments like the Cross Square Hotel, Casey’s Supermarket and the state-of-the-art Credit Union.
“In the face of Brexit, this reclassification has the potential to damage the town long term and hinder future infrastructure development.”
Councillor Byrne is hopeful that his proposal to retain town status will be ratified by the full council when it next sits.
Picture Inset: Councillor Pete Byrne in the Cross Square Hotel.