Donegal County have said they are fully committed to the Riverine Community Park Project but have admitted the project is behind schedule for opening.
The park is a joint project developed by Donegal County Council and Derry City and Strabane District Council to develop a 30-acre dedicated cross-border and cross-community shared space.
The project will include a park of regional significance, which will be located along the banks of the River Foyle on both sides, comprising of a number of key elements including outdoor events space, managed parkland, enhanced river access, environmental area, an adventure play area and community building.
This shared space will be linked by a pedestrian and cycle bridge which will span across the river, representing a physical and symbolic link in connecting the communities of Strabane, Lifford and their rural hinterlands.
The project is funded through the PEACE IV Programme through the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB). In line with the overall PEACE IV Programme’s Shared Spaces objectives, the project is supported by a dedicated community animation programme, designed to promote sustained and meaningful cross-border and cross-community contact and relations through a range of programmed activities targeting various groups. A Riverine Community Forum has also been established to ensure community engagement throughout the design of the project and the delivery of the animation programmes.
Officials from both Councils met with representatives from the Riverine Community Forum at their monthly meeting to provide an update on the project and to give an overview of the challenges faced by both Council’s in recent months.
Both Councils say they are working very closely with SEUPB to determine what elements of the project can now be delivered if any before the end of the programme date of 31st December 2023
A spokesperson said “At the present time key statutory approvals remain outstanding. While it is possible that some of the statutory approvals will be resolved in time to facilitate construction of various project elements within the PEACE IV funding envelope it is highly unlikely that all will be resolved in time.
“This represents a significant risk to the project which lies outside of the direct control of both Councils and which is too great for the Councils or the PEACE IV Programme to bear.
“Following detailed engagement between Donegal County Council, Derry City and Strabane District Council and the Special EU Programmes Body it has been concluded that the project is no longer viable for completion within the timeframe remaining for the PEACE IV Programme (end December 2023). This is a very disappointing outcome for all concerned, not least the communities that would have benefited from the project.”
Both Councils said they would like to see as much work as possible continue in 2023 within the confines of the PEACE IV Programme and are actively engaging with SEUPB to explore what is possible in this regard.
In addition, the PEACEPLUS programme will open for applications shortly and will contain a number of themes that are compatible with the Riverine Park project. It is expected that as the Riverine project is now very well advanced in terms of community engagement, preparation and design and also that the outstanding statutory approvals should be in place this will put the project in a strong position for an application to PEACEPLUS.
Donegal Co. Council as lead Partner and Derry City & Strabane District Council as Project Partner remain fully committed to delivering on all elements of the Riverine Project.
“We share the disappointment of the Riverine Community Forum, Elected Members, and the Communities in the Lifford and Strabane areas that this will not be achieved within the Peace IV Programme. Both Councils are determined that works that can be delivered by December 2023 are progressed and are actively engaging with SEUPB in the regard. We are encouraged by the positive engagement to date with SEUPB in seeking to achieve this objective but accept that this must comply with the Peace IV programme rules.
“ Both Councils are also committed to submitting an application to the PEACEPLUS Programme in addition to exploring alternative funding options for the completion of the Riverine Project and will make every effort to ensure that this much needed infrastructure with resulting community engagement benefits is delivered for the Communities in Lifford and Strabane and surrounding areas,” said a spokesperson.