Donegal County Council and Derry City and Strabane District Council met this week to reaffirm their commitment to progressing with the Riverine project.
The development, which is led by Donegal council in partnership with Derry City and Strabane, had been approved for funding under the Peace IV programme.
However, the project experienced ‘unforeseen challenges’ in obtaining approval from An Bord Pleanala (ABP) which meant the project could not be completed on time and the €11 million grant was lost.
Last month, Sinn Fein’s Pearse Doherty said it had been almost two years since the money was ‘ring-fenced’ and that it must be spent by December this year.
“The delay is with An Bord Pleanála where there is a significant backlog of cases and we must see movement made quickly now if we are to save the project. A decision had been expected in October (2022),” Deputy Doherty said.
Sources also told Donegal Daily it had been hoped that, due to the scale of the funding, political pressure could have been used to get ABP to make a speedier decision. However, this was not forthcoming.
This week’s meeting was held between elected members and senior officers from both local authorities to discuss securing possible European funding in the future.
It followed the ‘recent positive planning decision’ approving the development by ABP and to discuss a new application for funding through the upcoming Peace Plus process.
“Both councils have reaffirmed their commitment to delivering this hugely important cross-border cross-community shared spaces regeneration project for Strabane and Lifford and confirmed that they are working with funders and relevant supporting Government Departments to agree a strategic funding and delivery plan going forward,” a council spokesperson said.
“The remaining elements of the project will be delivered over subsequent phases to align with the availability of relevant funding programmes, including the imminent launch of the Peace Plus Programme.”
The Riverine Community Park, if successful, could see the development of a 30 acre dedicated cross-border and cross-community shared space in Strabane and Lifford. It is anticipated that the project will include a park of ‘regional significance’, which will be located along the banks of the River Foyle on both sides. It will consist of a number of key elements including outdoor events space, managed parkland, enhanced river access, environmental area, an adventure play area and community building.
“The shared space would be linked by a pedestrian and cycle bridge that will span across the river, representing a physical and symbolic link in connecting the communities of Strabane, Lifford and their rural hinterlands,” the spokesperson added.
“The project will also be 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.”