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Funding bid expected to help create ‘5-star destination’ at Slieve Gullion Forest Park

Options relating to Chambre House development to be considered

An application for funding will be made to help fulfil the goal of creating a ‘5-star destination’ at Slieve Gullion Forest Park.

And Newry, Mourne and Down District Council will consider options in relation to the future development when its tourism committee meets on Monday.

Central to this will be Chambre House.

Armagh I revealed in February last year that plans were in the pipeline for an exciting new interpretative centre at Slieve Gullion Forest Park.

They centred around a derelict property – the Chambre House – with the aim of bringing even more tourists and offering more in terms of activities for the visitor to the area.

An application was submitted for planning approval for the existing and historic Chambre House to be refurbished and extended as part of the development plan.

As we reported, a basement, ground floor and first floor level, linked by a lift and mainly comprising exhibition space, would be used to tell the unique story of the area, an area of special scientific interest which is steeped in fascinating myth and legend.

At the top there would be an external terrace or roof top garden.

A year earlier, in February 2016, an expression of interest for what was known as the ‘Slieve Gullion Forest Park ‘5-Star Destination’ project was made to the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs’ ‘Rural Tourism Scheme’.

That expression of interest was for grant aid of £500,000.

Now the council has been asked to proceed to a full application.

An integrated design team has been appointed to draw up the tender documentation for the redevelopment of Chambre House. An interpretation consultant is also required as part of the process.

A total of £940,000 has been secured from NMD Council rates – via the ‘capital rates rolling programme’ – up until 2020/2021.

The project outlined in the expression of interest has been described as “ambitious” and one which will “positively contribute” to the council’s aspiring UNESCO Geopark application.

A number of options will now be considered at Monday’s tourism committee relating to interpretative facilities at the Forest Park as a whole.

But the recommendation from officers to councillors is to provide for interpretation through Chambre House, excluding the planned extension.

It is proposed that a bid for funding based on that option is submitted to DAERA for consideration.

Whatever way the committee looks at the recommendation, it will have to be ratified at the full council sitting before proceeding.

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