Looking back... Newtownabbey site earmarked for Ulster’s biggest sports facility

Newtownabbey Urban District Council put forward proposals in January 1961 for the creation of the largest sports facility in Ulster.

The development plan was for land between Church Road and Whitewell Road.

It included provision for 26 soccer pitches and an athletics stadium; a 50-metre swimming pool; 18-hole pitch and putt golf course; six rugby pitches; six hockey pitches; seven cricket pitches; 16 tennis courts, carparks and changing accommodation.

The project was expected to cost several hundred thousand pounds to complete.

The council had purchased 105 acres of land for the sum of £43,000 and was negotiating the purchase of a further 150 acres.

According to census figures, 22,000 people moved from Belfast to Newtownabbey Urban District and Lisburn Rural District in the post-war years, between 1951 and 1961.

Newtownabbey’s population increased from 20,215 in 1951 to 37,448 in 1961.

The population of Newtownabbey was 7,387 in 1901.

The Urban Council was initiated in 1958 when Newtownabbey was formed. Previously, the district was administered from Belfast.