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Exciting ‘open space’ plan at former south Armagh military base to be approved

Plans to redevelop a former south Armagh military base and provide a unique ‘open space’ for both locals and tourists will be given the go-ahead later this month.

It is the second phase of an ambitious redevelopment programme for the old Forkhill base, which was vacated as part of the demilitarisation process.

Housing has already been built on site as the first phase to bring the vacant site back into productive use, the new homes being officially opened last October.

But as Armagh I revealed in March, much more is planned in terms of an ‘open space’ development, the plans having been submitted by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.

As part of the process, 60 neighbours were notified of the proposals for the site, which lies eight miles from Newry.

A number of agencies have also been consulted and no objections raised.

The development has now been recommended for approval and a report to that effect will go before council on June 29.

The scheme, as we reported previously, will see the provision of specially designed green spaces, including new planting and seating areas connected by a series of pedestrian footpaths.

A curved entrance feature in stone will welcome people to Forkhill – spelled in both the English and Irish.

Among the features will be a scaled model of the peaks in the Ring of Gullion.

Poles, all scaled to represent the heights of each, will be set alongside an interpretation board, in what is being billed as an ‘outdoor classroom’.

Artwork will feature on each pole to represent the mountains – depicting the flora, fauna and folklore, alongside the name and height of each.

An artist will be appointed to work on the designs which will be carried out in conjunction with the local primary school.

Another key feature of the plans will be a ‘compass’, made up of decorative paving and the ‘fingers’ pointing to locations across the island, such as Belfast, Dublin, Slieve Donard, Rathlin Island, Donegal Town, Carlingford, Limerick and Galway.

A planning official, in recommending the work be allowed to proceed, says the site is located within the development limit of Forkhill and is therefore zoned for mixed used development.

Three requirements had been identified for the site. The first of these was for social housing, which has been provided.

The other requirements are for the widening of the School Road across the entire front of the military base site, and footpath links provided to Main Street, and also improvements to the junction of School Road and Main Street.

It will also “complement the approved housing schemes already implemented in the area and any future development within the main proposal site”.

The official report concludes: “The proposed scheme will be an improvement to the site and indeed the local area in Forkhill.”

The redevelopment of the base is being carried out in partnership with the Forkhill and District Development Association.

The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and Newry, Mourne and Down District Council jointly funded the appointment of Groundwork NI to assist Forkhill and District Development Association in bringing forward proposals for the development of the ‘green space’ in the overall site development and the production of design options and ideas which “bring creativity, innovation and excitement”.

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