Newtownabbey Borough Council is hoping to secure a major funding package from the European Union to allow it to redevelop the Valley Park.
The local authority’s ambitious plans for the construction of a new 3G sports pitch, an adventure play park and a civic linear park on the site adjacent to the Valley Leisure Centre could be set to benefit from funding which had been set aside for the controversial Maze peace centre project.
The council applied to the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB) in 2007 under its Peace III Shared Space initiative for funding for the £3.4million project. But despite a favourable assessment, the scheme was put on a reserve list due to budgetary constraints.
Now, with the EU having withdrawn an £18million funding offer for the stalled peace and reconciliation centre project at the former prison site, it’s likely that the money will be redistributed to other less contentious schemes.
“When it became likely that the Maze project was not going to proceed, the council asked SEUPB to reconsider funding for the Valley Park. It has now been confirmed that SEUPB is considering reallocations and the council is hopeful of a positive outcome,” a council spokesperson confirmed.
If the funding is confirmed, the council is aiming to construct the floodlit 3G sports pitch, which will be suitable for football, rugby and Gaelic games, between May and December 2014. The adventure play park and civic linear park could be delivered between December 2014 and June 2015.
The council’s bid to secure a slice of the £18million allocated to the Maze peace centre project has been backed by MEPs Diane Dodds and Jim Nicholson.
Mr Nicholson visited Mossley Mill on Friday, October 11 to meet with councillors John Scott, Mark Cosgrove, Fraser Agnew and a senior council officer to discuss the plans for the redevelopment of the Valley Park.
Following the meeting, Mr Nicholson described the Valley Park Shared Space proposal as “a tremendous project”.
“I will certainly do all I can to promote truly shared space projects as this is the only way that Northern Ireland can move forward and people can live in real peace with each other,” the UUP man commented.
Alderman Agnew said: “I was really pleased that Jim took time out of his busy schedule to discuss our Valley Park project in what could be a very significant development that has been many years in the making.”
Cllr Scott continued: “As a Macedon councillor I have been working on this project for years and it was great that our MEP visited Newtownabbey to discuss how we can all make this a reality.”
Cllr Cosgrove added: “I was delighted to bring Jim to the Mill so he could hear first hand about the exciting cross-community project at the Valley Park. After the last few months this would be a tremendous boost for Newtownabbey and North Belfast and I know that Jim was suitably impressed.”
It’s understood the council hopes to have a decision from SEUPB on its funding application before the end of the year.