Newtownabbey Borough Council has secured a £3.5million cash injection from the European Union for the redevelopment of the Valley Park.
The local authority received confirmation of the funding from the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB) this week.
The council’s ambitious £3.9m scheme, which is due to be completed by July 2015, will see the park transformed through the creation of a civic linear park, a full size floodlit 3G sports pitch for rugby, gaelic games and football, and an adventure play park.
“The comprehensive range of facilities on the site will ensure that all communities from across the borough and beyond benefit from a unique and valued shared space which provides a welcome, safe and attractive environment for all users. There will be lots of consultation with local communities, sports clubs, schools and the wider community to agree the final design of the scheme,” a council spokesperson commented.
Following months of extensive consultations and assessments, SEUPB finally agreed to commit £3,580,500 to the Valley Park Shared Space project.
Welcoming the funding, which was reallocated to other projects after the controversial Maze peace centre plan was shelved, Mayor Fraser Agnew said: “This is fantastic news for the borough and in particular the communities surrounding the Valley Park. The council originally submitted an application for funding in 2009 but due to budgetary constraints the project could not be progressed. We are therefore delighted that funds have become available for this scheme which will transform the lower end of the Valley Park and help us to build positive relations within and between our communities. The opportunity for people, young and old to come together through sport, play and leisure is critically important. I hope that our sports clubs, schools, nurseries, community groups and the wider community take full advantage of these facilities and that in years to come we will look back at this as a major success story.”
Alderman Jackie Mann, Chairman of the council’s Development Committee, added: “This is an important investment that is being made possible by the Peace III programme and the council is delighted that land, which is in our ownership, will be developed in such a meaningful way. The new state-of-the-art facilities will enhance sporting and community development for residents and visitors alike for many years to come.”
The funding announcement has also been welcomed by MEP Diane Dodds and North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds.
“This project will have inherent benefits for the local community, and the redevelopment of Valley Park will spearhead the delivery of new 3G football facilities, recreational space and a state-of-the-art adventure playground for use by local families and community groups. These facilities will undoubtedly provide a renewed social hub for the wider community in Newtownabbey,” Mrs Dodds said.
“I would like to thank my party colleagues in North Belfast for their help and hard work in securing this positive result for the people of Newtownabbey. I also wish the council and its Chief Executive every success in delivering this worthwhile project.”
Mr Dodds added: “Over the past number of months much work has gone on behind the scenes in order to secure this funding, which will see the transformation of the park. Local residents and the wider community will benefit from not only a state-of-the-art play facility, but also a new hub for community life.
“I would like to put on record my thanks to Newtownabbey Borough Council, Diane (Dodds) and all those who worked so hard to deliver such a boost to the area. I am in no doubt that the shared space project will have a tremendous impact and provide a lasting legacy in the area.”