The Riverine Community Park Project is at risk of losing EU funding due to administrative delays, it has been revealed.
The cross-border project between Lifford and Strabane will not be completed by the December 31st deadline due to delays at both An Bord Pleanála and the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.
Donegal Deputy Pearse Doherty said the park stands to lose up to €12 million in EU funding as the deadline passes.
Teachta Doherty said: “All indications are that an application will need to be made again for the new round of EU funding; a development that will rightly leave the people of Lifford and Strabane furious.”
Donegal County Council and Derry City and Strabane District Council confirmed this week that the project is behind schedule, but said they are working very closely with the PEACE IV Programme through the Special EU Programmes Body (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 council 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.”
Teachta Doherty commented: “Blame must be directed at both An Bord Pleanála and the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.
“Planning permission cannot be provided in time by An Bord Pleanála due to a backlog of cases. This is the result of a number of board members resigning because of a series of scandals.
“There are also delays in issuing a foreshore license. This is a license awarded by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.
“Earlier this year, we raised concerns that this project was at serious risk and now our fears have been confirmed by the lead council, Donegal County Council.
“The people of Lifford and Strabane will suffer as a result. This is doubly unforgivable given as the project was sold as a way of addressing the impact of the conflict and a history of the region being left behind and forgotten about.
“The project, costing nearly €12 million, would have seen 30 acres of park space connected across the river by a foot and cycle bridge.
“We’ve met with both councils involved and a further meeting is planned for next week with the SEUPB EU funding body where we will also reinforce the importance of this project to this area.
“I will be raising these issues with the government and will ask if the government can press the EU Commission for the deadline to be extended.
“Too much hard work, time and effort has already been invested in this project for us to lose it now. Sinn Féin will do everything we can to see this project completed.”