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Derry council to submit £38m Levelling Up bids for new Strabane leisure centre and Creggan Reservoir development

Councillors have however questioned whether the submissions lack ambition

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The Creggan Country Park/Creggan Reservoir project could unlock other planning applications.

The Creggan Country Park/Creggan Reservoir project could unlock other planning applications.

The Creggan Country Park/Creggan Reservoir project could unlock other planning applications.

Councillors in Derry have welcomed Levelling Up submissions but questioned whether the local authority could have been more ambitious.

Derry City & Strabane District Council is planning to lodge bids for projects worth £38m as part of the UK Government’s next round of Levelling Up funding.

The council was pleased to have all three bids accepted in the first funding round for St Columb’s Park Acorn Farm, Derg Active and the Daisyfield Community Sports Hub, collectively coming in at £16.3m.

The £4.8 billion Levelling Up Fund aims to invest in infrastructure that improves everyday life across the UK, including regenerating town centres and high streets, upgrading local transport, and investing in cultural and heritage assets.

The Round two prospectus was launched on March 23 and the deadline for submissions is July 6.

Time restrictions and a requirement for projects to have a detailed business case meant the council was limited in what it could put forward. 

Council officers decided on four projects which were presented at Tuesday’s meeting of the Governance and Strategic Planning Committee.

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The first is a £23m bid for a new Strabane Leisure Centre to replace the current Riversdale Centre.

A £5m bid will be lodged to develop and enhance the Creggan Reservoir/Creggan Country Park which is located in one of the most deprived areas of the city.

This would also be significant as it would allow critical health and safety works to be carried out at the reservoir.

In turn, that would unlock other planning applications which could not proceed because of a perceived flooding risk posed by the old reservoir.

A flood inundation map showed that in the event of reservoir failure, areas as far away as the Strand Road and Buncrana Road in Derry would be impacted.

That risk of flooding was inhibiting progress on other projects in the city, including those at Fort George and a community centre in the Glen area.  It impacted on numerous other planning applications as well.

The Levelling Up project would regenerate the dated infrastructure, enabling the site to be used as a regional visitor attraction, providing much needed community infrastructure.

“The magnitude of critical health and safety works required is currently a significant £1m financial pressure for Council and, a successful levelling up fund proposal would not only significantly alleviate this pressure but leverage funding for a much more transformative project for the facility,” a council officer said.

In addition, a bid of around £5m was proposed to deliver one to two play parks in each of the District Electoral Area (DEA) Community Partnership areas within the Council district to improve community infrastructure and community spaces.

And £5m to expand the NW Greenways network throughout Derry City, Strabane and wider Council area to improve upon the existing active travel green infrastructure.

The proposals were welcomed “worthwhile projects” that have been on the capital list for a long time but certain councillors highlighted a lack of ambition.

Sinn Fein Councillor Sandra Duffy said there is an extensive capital list with huge ambition and she questioned how decisions were made to take these projects forward.

UUP Councillor Ryan McCready echoed that sentiment and asked where the parks would be based.

While Aontu councillor Emmet Doyle questioned whether freeing up capital borrowing power by securing money for the Strabane leisure centre and, getting a “good result” with City of Derry Airport funding, could mean a long-running demand to develop Templemore Sports Complex could be advanced.

The estimated capital costs for Templemore Sports Complex are in the region of £50m.

The council’s Chief Executive John Kelpie accepted that Templemore Sports Complex is a “massive strategic priority” and one that council hopes to move forward if money can be released from City of Derry Airport when the government commits to a £3m support package and once an issue with the rates support grant is resolved.

Around ambition and whether the council will fail after being so successful in its first round bids, Mr Kelpie believed the council was being sufficiently ambitious.

The council’s lead finance officer, Alfie Dallas, concurred that if bids are successful it would allow funds to be re-directed to other projects.

A council officer added that this time round it will be a highly competitive process with other councils submitting applications who were slow to do so in the first round.


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