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Amended plans for Newry theatre agreed – at much greater cost and further delays!

It is understood the price tag of the new development - now with which brick instead of red - has more than doubled since 2019

An amended design for Newry’s new multi-million pound theatre has been approved this week but with further delays and increased costs expected.

The strategy, policy and resources committee has now signed off on the redrawn blueprints.

However, it is understood the price tag of the development has more than doubled since 2019.

The local authority’s new 250 seat multi-function theatre and conference centre will be connected to a refurbished Newry Town Hall, which is included in the overall costs of the city centre redevelopment plans.

A council report stated: “A design workshop to discuss the revised elevations was held on 16 November 2023, all councillors were invited.

“Following the recommendation of members at the workshop, the revised design was tabled at the Newry City Centre Regeneration Programme Board on 8 December 2023 with board members agreeing that the new revised elevations are brought to the SPR for committee approval.”

The theatre plans have previously caused controversy over the demolition of the existing Sean Hollywood Arts Centre with its 19th Century facade design.

Though the concerns were somewhat alleviated when it was shown the actual structure was built in the 1980s.

The new recommendations have come by way of a consultancy team meeting on the project with the Historical Environment Division (HED).

The Stormont agency provides advice to district councils on responsibilities to protect historic environments.

The chamber heard that this week’s approval will “delay receipt of planning approval and increase consultants’ fee”.

The previous design

The new designs include a different external finish of off-white brickwork (main picture) instead of red (inset below) as well as elevated internal walls.

A suggestion to reshape external columns from arched to square was rejected.

Newry Sinn Fein rep, Aidan Mathers said: “Does all the advice from the HED have to be taken on this?

“I fear that this project could be stalled further than what it should be.

“We need to just keep it moving along with the process and having a good look at it, it is not a big ask, what they are asking and I think it is the right decision.”

Slieve Gullion SDLP cllr, Pete Byrne added: “Speaking to a number of people in the arts groups, they are, in their words ‘not going to die in a ditch’ over the aesthetics of the building, but that doesn’t give licence to something that is going to be garish.

“They are more about the functionality of it.

“We had the workshop for all councillors and I know we had a robust conversation, and you’ll not get everyone to like the design.

“I think it complements the Town Hall and ties in with the surrounding buildings.”

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