EU funding to turn the site of a South Armagh army barracks into a wildflower meadow needs to be spent as a “matter of urgency”, councillors have been told.
The £50,000 must be used by November as part of an ongoing project to reimagine the old base in Forkhill, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council officials say.
The Peace Plus programme cash has been earmarked to clear the area and create a green zone with wild flowers.
Local authority representatives were told that no direct council monies are available should the November deadline be missed.
A Council Enterprise Regeneration and Tourism Committee officer’s report states: “It is important to now proceed as a matter of urgency to get the onsite works programmed and completed.
“The blast wall removal and footpath restatement remain longer term priorities for the overall-site and it is important that the council and other central government partners continue to work with the community on this.
“If required any surveying or advance study fees or costs should be budgeted for.”
The business case for the site clearance was approved back in September 2021.
A previous planning application was made for a children’s play park with business unit planning also due to be sought for parts of the eight-acre village centre site.
Slieve Gullion councillor Pete Byrne (SDLP), who sits on the Forkhill Former Barracks Site Partnership Committee, said the new green zone will be essential for future planning guidance.
He added: “Over the last few months, we have developed a full biodiversity and access plan through the Greenspace Partnership as we move into the next phase of regeneration of the former barracks site in Forkhill.
“The intention is to open up the middle of the site and encourage more wildlife into the green space through innovative planting alongside open spaces for the public to enjoy.
“However, due to current funding constraints, we have decided to accelerate the works to clear the centre of the site and plant out the areas of wild flowers.
“In the short term, this will increase the green space and allow us to get a feel for how it can be best used going forward.
“This stage of work will be completed by November 2022 and secures the wishes of the vast majority of residents that the site is retained as an open green space for generations to come.”