Newry Cathedral parishoners feeling ‘palpable anger’ over civic hub proposal

An artist's impression of how the new Civic Hub would look with Newry Cathedral in the foreground.An artist's impression of how the new Civic Hub would look with Newry Cathedral in the foreground.
An artist's impression of how the new Civic Hub would look with Newry Cathedral in the foreground.
Newry Cathedral Parish’s decision to ask members of the congregation to sign a petition against the proposed development of a new £20m civic centre was taken due to the “palpable anger and frustration” felt by the congregation over Council's “failure to engage in any meaningful dialogue”.

The Parish has expressed its “profound dismay and objection” to the proposed construction of new offices by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.

The site at Abbey Way currently provides off street parking including a multi-storey car park that the Catholic Church says is needed for Mass-goers to its Grade A listed building.

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However, the council states that its new designs will provide more spaces for parishioners following an engineer’s survey of the car-park.

In a statement the Cathedral Parish said: “This development, which was advanced without adequate consultation with the Parish or the community it serves, represents a significant oversight and disregard for the values and concerns of our congregation and local residents.

“The introduction of a modern office block within the immediate vicinity of Newry Cathedral - a landmark of immense historical and architectural importance - poses a serious threat to the visual harmony of the area and to Newry's shared cultural heritage. More distressingly, the development plan includes the elimination of vital parking spaces that serve as a lifeline for those attending the cathedral's services, including mass and weddings. This loss is not just an inconvenience; it is a barrier to worship, disproportionately affecting our elderly and less mobile community members.

"Sadly, we must emphasise the palpable anger and frustration felt by our congregation and the wider community over the Council's failure to engage in any meaningful dialogue. The decision to move forward with this development, in apparent disregard of our concerns, has reinforced our resolve to oppose a project that has progressed without our input or consent.

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“We are calling on the planning department and Council to revisit their decision, taking into account the legitimate concerns of the Cathedral Parish and its parishioners. The erosion of trust between the community and those who represent us can only be repaired by a genuine commitment to meaningful engagement. We urge a re-evaluation of the Civic Hub project, and seek a path forward that respects the heritage, faith, and voices of the Newry community.”

A council spokesperson said: “As part of the design development for the civic and regional hub the impact of the project on parking at the Abbey Way site has been a key consideration, and a number of parking surveys have been completed by appointed traffic engineers on Thursday through to Sunday inclusive, with the maximum occupancy of these two car parks recorded at 116 spaces on Saturday afternoons.

“Following feedback received from key stakeholders the council amended the parking plans to provide 138 spaces at the site, this is above the maximum occupancy rates recorded during the surveys conducted.”

The spokesperson added: “Along with the planned Newry City Park and theatre and conference centre, the civic and regional hub is part of the Newry City Centre Regeneration Project, which is aimed at regenerating Newry’s historic core and attracting footfall into the city.

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“This urban regeneration focus secured funding from the Belfast Region City Deal (BRCD).

“In January 2023 a BRCD contract for funding was agreed for Newry City Centre Regeneration Projects supported by the deal.

“BRCD funding of £5million has been allocated for public realm at the civic and regional hub and theatre and conference centre along with £3 million for a Grade A office accommodation fund.”

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