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‘Autumn start’ for new £1.1 million Armagh Harps sports complex

Work on the construction of a new £1.1 million community hall and sports complex for Armagh Harps is expected to start in the autumn – subject to planning approval.

And Armagh I can reveal that, of the Government departments already submitting opinions based on the application, it’s looking good, with NO opposition to the development at this stage.

Armagh I exclusively revealed the Harps’ hopes for a major redevelopment last month.

A planning application had been lodged just before Christmas.

And this was followed by the welcome news that £1.1 million had been confirmed by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister under the Social Investment Fund.

The long-standing city-based club is excited by the prospects and says the project includes new changing rooms, sports/community hall and viewing gallery and “will provide state-of-the-art facilities for future generations”.

Armagh Harps reports this week: “It is anticipated construction will commence in the autumn.”

Meanwhile, the actual planning application is going through the statutory processes.

We can reveal that both TransportNI and Rivers Agency have already responded with opinions on the proposals.

And it’s so far so good for the Harps.

TransportNI has told DoE Planning Service that it has “no objection in principle” to the Abbey Park scheme.

Rivers Agency has also found no grounds for objection.

Officials confirm that the site is not within a fluvial flood plain.

They do, however, report that it is situated within a “predicted flooded area”.

And, while the Harps are not required by policy, they have been advised to appoint their own professional to carry out “their own assessment of flood risk” and to “construct in a manner that minimises flood risk to the proposed development and elsewhere”.

It is expected that an official decision will be made within the next couple of months.

And, if work begins on schedule in the autumn, the new ground could be completed later in 2016.

The Abbey Park scheme was one of nine across the Province to be awarded grants in the most recent tranche of allocations from the SIF.

These see a further £13 million invested in seven capital projects and two revenue projects, which are aimed at tackling poverty and deprivation by providing improved community services and facilities.

Armagh Harps’ plans, as we revealed, would see the demolition of the existing clubhouse at Abbey Park and a new two-storey facility, complete with changing facilities, gymnasium and facilities for disabled users.

The plans include a corporate shop too, with a sports hall and viewing areas at first floor level.

An Armagh Harps spokesman – speaking before this evening’s successful funding announcement – had told Armagh I: “Armagh Harps have plans to build an indoor sports hall/community hall, children/female friendly changing facilities and a gymnasium/weights room.

“The indoor sports hall would be 20m x 20m and used for sporting and community-based recreational activities.

“The facility would also include four female/child friendly changing rooms and a gymnasium which will be 10m x20m.

“The project will include also resurfacing the current training pitch with a synthetic carpet.”

This would be the latest in a rolling programme of development for the Harps, an Armagh Club with a long and proud history dating back to 1888.

Picture: Google Street View

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