Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Newcastle Harbour has important role in regeneration

2 June, 2005

Sinn Féin's newly appointed Tourism Spokesperson, South Down MLA Willie Clarke, has said that statutory agencies who must do more to develop Newcastle Harbour as an important amenity that could be a focal point in the town's waterfront which is set to be enhanced by the building of a new promenade.

Cllr Clarke said:

"For too many years Newcastle Harbour has received little or no funding, yet is should be the focal point for the regeneration of Newcastle and the development of its tourist potential.

"Coastal communities in Kilkeel and Ardglass have evolved with the times and should benefit further from the Task Force fund established to revive hard pressed seafaring communities that depended solely on traditional seafood industries. Annalong has also received substantial investment, which while welcome only serves to highlight the lack of investment channeled into Newcastle. The result of this economic neglect is stagnation and a failure to develop the potential of this most historic of places.

"Tourism and recreational activities are set to grow and have great potential which can be linked to the historical and cultural heritage of an area. Towns and villages must be developed in a way that is sympathetic with the natural environment yet ask most people and they will tell you that Newcastle has lost much of its character because of bad planning decisions. This is particularly the case at the Harbour, one of the oldest parts of Newcastle, which has been hit by unsympathetic developments and a lack of investment.

"During the 1990's Down Council sold off the Watch House, a building of historical significance, and surrounding land to a property developer for £12,000 in a deal that made no sense. It could have been returned to the local community and been a focal point for the rejuvenation of the Harbour.

"A strategy involving Down Council, Newcastle Harbour Community Development Association, the Department of Social Development, Invest NI and Tourism Ireland in partnership with the local community can provide a framework where the goals are not sorely based on profit can revitalise the area.

"The Harbour should play a key role in the development of the town as a tourist destination. Information about cultural and natural heritage that links up to bicycle paths and hiking trails such as the recently opened Granite Trail that leads from Newcastle Harbour to Thomas's mountain shows just what can be achieved. It also illustrates that developments, when handled sensitively, can enhance an area." ENDS

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