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Newry Cathedral parishioners urged to take on council over new £20m civic centre

It is not the first time the two bodies have been at loggerheads

Image of Newry Cathedral and artist\'s impression of the new NMDDC Civic Centre. (Image from NMDDC website) Permission for all LDRS to publish.
An artist's impression of the new NMDDC Civic Centre in Newry An artist's impression of the new NMDDC Civic Centre in Newry

Parishioners of a Newry Cathedral are being urged to petition the council against its development of a new £20m civic centre.

The planning objection has erupted over the perceived loss of car-parking spaces if Newry Mourne and Down District Council (NMDDC) goes ahead with building its new HQ close to Newry Cathedral.

The city centre site for development at this time provides off street parking including a multi-storey car park that the Catholic Church says is needed for Mass-goers to its Grade A listed building.

However, the local authority states that its new designs will provide more spaces for parishioners following an engineer’s survey of the car-park.

On its website this week (Feb 20), Newry Cathedral Parish said: “Newry, Mourne and Down Council has gone ahead seeking planning permission, despite our objections, for the new civic centre in close proximity to the Cathedral.

“We encourage you to object as the parking behind the Cathedral will be very limited.

“Parishioners will be available as you leave Mass at the weekend to enable you to sign a petition in objection to the car park being taken away and the close proximity of this building to the Cathedral, which is a Grade A listed building.”

This is not the first time the two bodies have been at loggerheads with a previous disagreement over NMDDC erecting a large scale screen in 2015 outside the Cathedral.

A Local Government Auditor investigation found a “catalogue of serious governance and control failures”.

The Church said it had not been consulted about the TV, intended to show films and sports events to the public, stating it was a breach of planning policy rules.

Following a judicial review, the screen was removed.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service contacted NMDDC to respond to the Cathedral’s intended petition drive this weekend.

A council spokesperson said: “As part of the design development for the civic and regional hub the impact of the project on parking at the Abbey Way site has been a key consideration, and a number of parking surveys have been completed by appointed traffic engineers on Thursday through to Sunday inclusive, with the maximum occupancy of these two car parks recorded at 116 spaces on Saturday afternoons.

“Following feedback received from key stakeholders the council amended the parking plans to provide 138 spaces at the site, this is above the maximum occupancy rates recorded during the surveys conducted.”

The spokesperson added: “Along with the planned Newry City Park and theatre and conference centre, the civic and regional hub is part of the Newry City Centre Regeneration Project, which is aimed at regenerating Newry’s historic core and attracting footfall into the city.

“This urban regeneration focus secured funding from the Belfast Region City Deal (BRCD).

“In January 2023 a BRCD contract for funding was agreed for Newry City Centre Regeneration Projects supported by the deal.

“BRCD funding of £5million has been allocated for public realm at the civic and regional hub and theatre and conference centre along with £3 million for a Grade A office accommodation fund.”