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Markethill’s ‘dual use’ recreation scheme report going before council

A new school building for Markethill High School is “highly likely”.

The assertion is made by consultants Venturei Network during the course of its analysis of a dual-use pilot scheme for recreational provision in the town.

The former Armagh City and District Council had entered into an agreement with Markethill High School for the provision of recreational facilities that could be used by both school and local community.

Now additional recreational facilities are being planned for Markethill as part of a distinct development plan being put together for the town, with another also being drawn up for Tandragee.

Venturei Network had drawn up a report on options based on the usage and changes brought about since the pilot was introduced in Markethill.

In a report to go before Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council’s leisure and community services committee tomorrow (Monday) night, Venturei Network will recommend the second of three options, which would be for a ‘partnership development’ approach as the best way forward.

It says this option would acknowledge a number of important factors which form the context for the next course of action agreed jointly by the council and Markethill High School.

The original partnership was entered into by Armagh City and District Council, but after April 1, 2015 (RPA) this Corporate Body does not exist and any relationship would require to be developed with the new Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council.

As a new council it must take stock and attempt to carry out planning and decision making processes to bring about a consistency approach across the council area.

Key elements of this will include the development of the Corporate Plan, the Community Plan and specific service focussed plans, such as that associated with mapping the need for facilities and investment in sport, recreation and leisure facilities, in partnership with Sport NI.

Venturei Network says the development of a Masterplan for Markethill is to be welcomed and follows an acknowledged model of good practice.Markethill High School

But it says it must be acknowledged that the outworkings of this must be the establishment of a shared or coordinated community infrastructure, including Markethill High School, local community organisations, the council and statutory organisations with a responsibility for a remit in the provision of services.

The report states: “It is recognised that Markethill High School has performed significantly well over the medium term; an increase in numbers has created the conditions where it is highly likely that a complete investment will be undertaken in a new building for the school.

“Given the focus of the Department of Education and DCAL (joint advocacy document) on school estate being opened
in the evenings for community use, feeding the results of the pilot and extended pilot into the school planning process could help to develop facilities which do not displace existing community led investment and are presented in terms of layout and quality at a level which would attract users.”

It says that, the recommended option would see the High School retain its partnership connection focusing on feeding into these important strategic and facilities planning processes.

Having obtained a full understanding of the implications of these they would agree the next phase of any continued partnership working approach.

It was in 2007 that preliminary discussions took place between Markethill High School and the council in order to investigate the possibility of a dual use project on the school site similar to that at St Patrick’s High School, Keady.In July 2011 it was agreed to establish a pilot scheme in partnership with Markethill High School, Armagh City and District Council and the Southern Education & Library Board in order to ascertain if this would be a sustainable project.

Based on previous experience of the Keady model and following an independent report on the 2011/12 pilot scheme, presented to council in July 2012, it was agreed to extend the pilot scheme for a further six months in order to explore the expansion of the scheme.

The second pilot scheme started on Tuesday, September 25, 2012, finishing on Thursday, June 20, 2013, a total of eight months.

During this period, as recommended by the independent report carried out by Venturei Network, a management group was established to oversee the Management Plan for the scheme, assist in the development of the health and well-being of the greater Markethill area, actively promote participation in sport/recreational activity through schools, clubs, community groups, etc. within the catchment area, advise on all aspects of the pilot to ensure maximum use by the community, monitor the operation of the scheme, and investigate funding opportunities.

In July 2013, Armagh City and District Council agreed to a further two year pilot scheme – October 2013 to March 2014 and October 2014 to March 2015 – with an external assessment and evaluation of the project and an analysis of the recreational needs of the greater Markethill community.

This was to ensure that an assured decision could be made by the new Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council on any future partnership agreement.

During the final months of the pilot scheme, Armagh City and District Council appointed Deloitte in November 2014 to develop two distinct Development Plans for the district towns of Markethill and Tandragee.

The key objectives was to identify the short, medium and long term needs of the two respective settlements, and to ensure that the community are empowered to develop a shared vision for their local area.

The Development Plans are intended to provide a framework in which a partnership approach to identifying and securing resources to address the needs of the two areas can be promoted.

In relation to Markethill, there are plans for a community ‘hub’, play area and 3G pitch, with the Orange Order, Council and other community groups all involved.

A ‘partnership development’ approach will be recommended tomorrow in relation to the dual use arrangements with Markethill High School.

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