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Funding of £30,000 for disabled access project at a Derry park has been withdrawn

Work had been due to begin at Strathfoyle park in Spring of this year

Strathfoyle park

The funding was to improve access for people with disabilities at Strathfoyle play park.

A proposed £30,000 upgrade of a play park in Derry will now not happened as planned.

In November last year, Derry City and Strabane District Council announced that it had secured a £30,000 grant from the Department for Communities for the work at Strathfoyle Play Park.

The money was to be used to improve access to the park for people with disabilities.

The council said the plan had been for the work on the improvements to begin in Spring of this year.

However, it emerged today that the funding for the project is no longer in place.

Aeidin McCarter, the council's Arts and Culture Manager, told a meeting of the council's Business and Culture Committee that a Letter of Offer from DfC in relation to the funding for the Strathfoyle project and a number of other initiatives had been accepted by the council in February of this year.

However, it was required that the money be spent within the 2020/21 financial year which ended on March 31.

Mrs McCarter said that given the 'short time available and procurement challenges' faced by a number of the projects, council officers had sought an extension to the Letter of Offer into the 2021/22 financial year.

However, Mrs McCarter said DfC said there was 'no scope' to allow 2020/21 funding to be carried over into the next financial year unless projects are 'contractually committed'.

As a result, any funding offer which had been made by DfC has now been withdrawn.

Mrs McCarter told the meeting that DfC had indicated that any projects which are not being supported in the current financial year would be able to 'resubmit' for the 2021/22 funding programme.

Along with the Strathfoyle park project, the other local projects affected by the funding problems are:

- £30,000 for 'inclusive park seating' throughout the council area;
- £30,000 for an outdoor accessible hub at the Alley Theatre in Strabane;
- £20,000 for Changing Place toilet provision in Castlederg;
- £25,000 for for a mobile outdoor performance stage for use in the council area
- £30,000 for 'accessible seating' in St Columb's Park Walled Garden

Alliance councillor Rachael Ferguson said it was 'extremely disappointing' that the projects would not be happening as planned.

In relation to the Strathfoyle park project, Cllr Ferguson said it was the result of a 'huge campaign' by young people in the area.

“They were told in November that this was successful,” she said.

Cllr Ferguson asked Mrs McCarter if the deadline given for the Strathfoyle project had been 'too short' for it to go ahead.

Mrs McCarter said she was not across the detail of the Strathfoyle project but that all the projects had faced 'similar' difficulties in terms of procurement.

SDLP councillor Rory Farrell asked that in terms of the projects that would not be funded this year, if there was 'any degree of confidence' that would be 'ready' for next year.

Mrs McCarter said council officers had 'not stopped the work on them' and that the projects are 'almost ready to go'.

She stressed that she did not have a 'crystal ball' but said officers were 'pretty confident' that the projects were 'well advanced' and that DfC are also confident they are 'well advanced'.

“We are very hopeful and we will do our best,” she said.

Ulster Unionist councillor Derek Hussey said the projects affected by the funding issues were ones that the council had 'touted' as 'being there'.

“These were shovel-ready projects but what has happened?" he said.

“I suspect that it may be within the Stormont department that these issues have arisen and we are having to carry the can for that.

“Promises have been made to our electors on the back of promised projects and we are now being knocked back on them. It is extremely disappointing,” added Cllr Hussey.

While the projects above have all missed out on funding for this financial year, DfC funding has been secured for a number of other local projects.

These include £16,260 for 'The Story of Our City' project at the Tower Museum in Derry and £10,000 for a new portable stage for the Guildhall.

If you have a story or want to send a photo or video to us please contact the Derry Now editorial team on 028 7129 6600 for Derry City stories Or 028 7774 3970 for County Derry stories. Or you can email editor@derrynews.net or editor@derrypost.com at any time.


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