A SERIOUS doubt now surrounds ambitious plans for a multi-million pound public realm scheme aimed at transforming Strabane town centre.
Planning permission has already been secured for the scheme, which is set to become the biggest re-development of the town centre for a generation.
The scheme was earmarked to include the resurfacing of footways, enhancements to street tree planting, street lighting and street furniture. The improvements would also include the removal of the Pagoda and the public toilets on Market Street, as well as improvements to the junction at Railway Street, Abercorn Square, Derry Road and Canal Street.
But now it was emerged that funding has still to be allocated to the scheme, and that it has been delayed by the need to provide Stormont’s Department for Communities with more information on what will be involved.
Communities Minister, Deirdre Hargey recently told West Tyrone SDLP MLA, Daniel McCrossan, that the business case for the Strabane Town Centre Public Realm Scheme is still being finalised by its promoters, namely Derry City and Strabane Council.
“Upon receipt of the final business case, my Department will then consider the business case and associated funding approval in the context of the Department’s wider budgetary considerations,” Ms Hargey said in a letter to the Mr McCrossan’s office.
In correspondence, the council says that the business case is substantially complete.
“The Department requested further information particularly around the links to the Canal Basin Regeneration site following the announcement of heads of terms for the City Deal project – this will enable the Department to consider funding and in particular any match funding requirement which may be required from council,” a spokesperson for council explained.
However, West Tyrone SDLP MLA, Daniel McCrossan, expressed concern that the project has been delayed, especially since planning permission was received almost two years ago.
“It is hugely frustrating that this project has been delayed this long given it received planning permission almost two years ago,” he said.
“The latest update from council is concerning as it seems to me that the project hasn’t even got a budget allocated yet. This is despite the people and businesses of Strabane town being promised £7 million pounds of investment.
“This scheme would transform Strabane in terms of upgrading footpaths, roads and providing shop frontage for local businesses. It would be hugely beneficial for residents and would present the right image of the town for visitors, investors and tourists alike.
“It is concerning that, from the responses received from council and DfC, that funding has not been allocated yet and the business case isn’t finalised. Both council and DfC need to redouble their efforts in order to fully deliver it.”