Northern Ireland news

Plans by Down GAA to develop centre of excellence at former army barracks takes another step forward

The entrance to Abercorn Barracks at Ballykinlar army base, where the Down County Board is hoping to develop a new centre of excellence. Picture by Pacemaker

PLANS by Down GAA to develop a new centre of excellence at a former army barracks in Co Down have taken another step forward.

A Newry, Mourne and Down council committee has given the go-ahead to surrender their lease of a pitch at Ballykinlar army base, where Down GAA hope to build a sports centre.

It is understood the lease would be given back to the Ministry Of Defence (MOD), which has been involved in ongoing negotiations with the Down County Board about the proposed facility on the site of the Abercorn Army Barracks.

A recommendation was endorsed by the council's Active and Healthy Communities committee on Monday to "support the Down County Board in their submission of a planning application and council agree in principle to surrender their lease for the Ballykinlar pitch back to the MOD".

The committee decision is expected to progress to a full council meeting next month for full ratification.

The proposed centre could include five floodlit pitches, changing facilities, a gymnasium, handball courts, auditorium and new administrative base, which will become the main hub for Down GAA.

SDLP councillor Gareth Sharvin, chair of the committee, said the proposed centre "will deliver for all involved with Down GAA and local gaelic clubs".

"The proposed development has been in working progress for many years and the Down County Board much be recognised for the hard working and vision," he said.

"The centre of excellence will support the nurturing, sustainability and development of local Gaelic games in the local area for generations.

"Once the project has been completed it will benefit all Down GAA teams and will be a leading complex for health and wellbeing in the east Down community.

"This will be a major regeneration project not only for Ballykinlar, but also Newry, Mourne and Down council."

Mr Sharvin added: "I have received reassurance from council officers that all existing clubs that use the council's soccer pitch, will be accommodated elsewhere within the council pitch structure".

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