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Parking at Lurgan football ground is like ‘Duffy’s Circus’ – same issue in Armagh

A request by Councillor Peter Haire to address car-parking and road safety issues in the vicinity of Glenavon Lane in Lurgan highlighted similar issues throughout the borough, at an ABC Leisure & Community Services Committee meeting held on March 11.

The DUP representative for the Lurgan DEA told committee members at Monday night’s meeting: “It’s regarding the traffic and park problems in Glenavon Lane and Lurgan Town Arena.

“On Saturday there, it just went to a new level. There’s 500 [people] and 30 games there on a Saturday morning and they’re just parking everywhere, it’s like Duffy’s Circus. I’m really concerned that somebody’s going to get hurt or seriously injured.

“I had a meeting with the council staff and the police and everybody on December 6, and we came up with a couple of solutions, and now we’re three months on and nothing has been done.

“I am really concerned about it and I would like an urgent meeting with Martin [Towe, head of Department] as soon as possible regarding this.”

The senior council officer replied: “We are aware of the situation. We’re looking at a number of ways in which to alleviate in the short term some of the congestion, though the long-term solution would be around car parking in that area.

“We have previously – maybe going back 20 years – we had looked at trying to extend the car park. Whilst there would be a significant cost in that, the number of extra car-parking spaces would not have been significant enough in order to deal with the issues that you have described.

“Having said that, in the short term we are looking at trying to relocate some of the matches, particularly the Mid Ulster Junior League matches, into some of our other facilities, either in Lurgan Park or Lord Lurgan Park.

“In the longer term we are going to re-mark out the existing car-parking spaces, and then look at how we can further develop the car-parking in that area.

“There are a number of issues. The car park that is existing is not ideal and it is at the wrong side of the road, i.e. the opposite side of the facility.

“We had previously looked at trying to relocate that car park into the facility, but in order to do that we would have to take out some of the pitches in and around the facility itself, which again isn’t an ideal solution. But we we will be looking at this moving forward.”

Vice-chair of committee, Councillor John Óg O’Kane, highlighted similar issues in Armagh: “I understand where Councillor Haire is coming from, but when you’re looking at that area, could I ask somebody to look at the area down by Sherry’s Field in Armagh on a Saturday morning, Wednesday night, Thursday night?

“The amount of children playing soccer and things down there, and there’s no room for anybody to park. Now, I have spoken to officers with this here but I’ve had no progress, so we definitely need to look at it. There will be somebody seriously hurt there.”

Councillor Haire continued: “In December there were two areas we were looking at, the ‘stones areas’ [off the New Line Road] and the overflow car park. Have you looked into them?”

Martin Towe replied: “Those are the areas that we are specifically looking at at the moment.”

Pursuing the matter, the DUP representative added: “On a Saturday morning, I wonder could they get an extra staff on there, and actually stop them from parking just outside the gate there where the barrier is?

“I’m going to try and get a meeting, hopefully next week, with all concerned parties, because I think we need to maybe get people in there to man it. If that’s the only way forward we’re going to do it.

“And another member of staff there on a Saturday morning would make an awful difference. I’m going to be talking to Lurgan Town and to the Mid Ulster Youth Academy, to actually get bodies on the ground.

“One of the things we discussed was a one-way system. The only way that can work is if we put somebody at the top of Glenavon Lane, somebody at the bottom and one right beside where the changing room is. That’s the only way it’s going to work.”

The head of Department informed Councillor Haire: “My understanding is that the Mid Ulster Junior League have already [taken steps towards] a one-way system.

“One of our problems at the moment is being able to have staff on site on a Saturday morning. Our staff would have limited hours as far as managing traffic would be concerned.

“But as I said, Mid Ulster Junior League have informed us tonight that they’re going to be looking at that as an option for the coming weekend.”

Councillor Keith Haughian (Sinn Féin, Lurgan DEA) pointed to a wider problem right across the ABC Borough: “I fear Councillor Haire has opened up a Pandora’s Box here. I know the [committee] vice-chair had referenced Armagh. My head is spinning with a couple of ones where I know we could do with a bit of a work.

“But I just think Councillor Haire’s request for another member of staff, for example, it’ll be news to me if we’ve got a members of staff free, because Lurgan Celtic in particular – and I spoke to the team recently – had to actually move their games from Lord Lurgan Park.

“We didn’t even have enough staff to do the work in Lord Lurgan in the first place. So I don’t think we have excess staff that are going to be there directing traffic and all the rest, and that’s not to undermine the request that you put in, but I think we need to be realistic.

“I also think, if we’re going to be looking at this for one, we need to look at it for all and make sure we’re not missing anybody out.”

Committee chair, Councillor Ian Wilson (DUP, Banbridge DEA) concluded: “I think what’s probably coming out of this debate tonight is that there are issues across the board, and the council officers, the teams, police or whoever – all interested parties – [need to liaise] together to try and sort this out.”

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