22 SEP 2021
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Police station sale: Give it back to the community

15 September 2021

The council should consider buying the site of Warrenpoint Police Station and explore ‘creative’ ways to use it, a South Down MLA has suggested. 

Police confirmed last week that the Charlotte Street station is on the market again three years after its proposed sale was stalled. 

The sale was abruptly halted in May 2018 as police reviewed whether the site would be needed as a potential Brexit customs and checkpoint facility.   

At the time, the PSNI said it was ‘a precautionary step’ to ensure that ‘whatever Brexit looks like in the future, we will be able to continue to keep our communities safe’.

The move dashed hopes of a town centre community hub at the site, which is instead is to be built at Clonallon Park.

Last week Assistant Chief Constable Bobby Singleton confirmed that the station, which has not been in use for a number of years, was again for sale.

“We regularly assess our resources to ensure we are equipped as well as possible to keep people safe,” he said. 

“Warrenpoint was one of three stations which had previously been considered for disposal, Aughnacloy and Castlederg were the others. In 2018, because of the uncertainty around EU exit, we looked at that decision and decided to pause their disposal.

“That decision has been kept under review and with the changing circumstances of EU exit, particularly in relation to UK/Ireland border arrangements, an operational review has recommended that the disposal of Castlederg, Aughnacloy and Warrenpoint stations can now recommence. 

“On August 18, we wrote to the Northern Ireland Policing Board in their role as the owner of the Police estate and in approving these stations for disposal to update them on this development.”

Welcoming the move, Warrenpoint-based MLA Sinéad Bradley said the station should never have been considered as a Brexit checkpoint.

She said the council and other government departments, which get first refusal on the site through the D1 process, should now examine potential uses for the site.

“I am pleased that plans to proceed with the sale of Warrenpoint Police Station are resuming though I firmly hold the view they should never have been paused. Any notion that the site would be a reasonable place to facilitate Brexit checks in the heart of our town were misguided,” said the SDLP MLA. 

“I would urge the local council and other government departments to consider how this site might be used in a creative way as we rebuild ways of doing business during this stage in the Covid pandemic.”

 

Memorial 

 

Joanne Reilly died when an IRA bomb exploded close to the police station in April 1989.

The 20-year-old had been working in a builders’ merchants nearby when the 1,500lb device detonated. 

Mrs Bradley said a memorial to the young woman on the wall of the station should be protected when a sale eventually goes through.

“Whatever becomes of the site, whether destined for public or private use, I will seek to ensure a sensitive approach is adopted to protect the marking of remembrance in place for the much-loved and missed Joanne Reilly who was so callously killed by the IRA at this location,” she added.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin MLA Sinéad Ennis said the site should be returned to the community to aid regeneration of Warrenpoint.

“There is an acute need for more affordable housing in Warrenpoint and the Town also suffers from a lack of parking space,” said Mrs Ennis.  

“An asset transfer to either Newry Mourne and Down Council or the Department of Communities will allow the community to benefit from a much-needed regeneration project at the site currently occupied by the PSNI Station.  

“I will be writing to the Policing Board and the PSNI Chief Constable on this matter. Community regeneration should come before profit making.”

The Reporter asked the council if it was considering buying the site and, if so, for what purpose.

A spokesperson replied: “Newry, Mourne and Down District Council has not considered buying Warrenpoint PSNI station. The Council will consider plans for a community centre in Clonallon Park, Warrenpoint at the next Strategic, Policy and Resources Committee Meeting on September 16.”

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