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Major hotel grant programme to launch in Newry after four year delay due to Covid

But concerns over the new £1m grant programme have not been heard in chambers as the chairperson refused questions from elected representatives

A major financial tourism package is set to be launched in Newry, Mourne and Down after a four year delay due to Covid.

The report on the Tourist Accommodation Funding Programme was presented to the council’s economy, regeneration and tourism (ERT) committee this week.

But no scrutiny was allowed on the £1m funding in chambers as committee chairperson, Mickey Ruane (Sinn Fein) refused requests from elected reps to raise concerns during the short meeting.

He said: “This is a for noting only item.

“If members wish to raise any matters, they can speak to officers after the meeting.”

Details of the programme show that the ERT committee in February 2020 approved the capital grant fund to support the construction of new hotel developments of scale in the district.

The report states that the funding call did not proceed at the time “due to various factors including the council’s response to the Covid pandemic”.

In the meantime, local elections took place in May 2023, which witnessed some significant changes in seats gained and lost in chambers, with the decline of the SDLP and UUP and the rise in seats by Sinn Fein and Alliance.

Newly elected members therefore would not have been included in the original decision making process for the funds in 2020.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service understands that concerns have now been raised with officers on how the funding will be delivered across the district.

The council is due to clarify the matter in due course with elected reps.

The Tourist Accommodation Funding Programme report presented in chambers has outlined the current status of the funding project.

It reads: “The funding criteria for the call is currently being updated in line with market conditions and following the consultation process of council’s tourism strategy 2024-29.

“Officers are currently updating the application documents for the scheme and will commence a media and engagement campaign, which will be targeted at relevant audiences.

“It is anticipated that the scheme will go live in May 2024.”

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