The old tennis courts and pavilion in Banbridge are to be demolished to make way for extra parking.
Six coach parking bays are to be provided, along with six car bays, with the reasoning to provide additional facilities for visitors to the County Down town.
With the new Game of Thrones attraction and planned developments at the F E McWilliam Gallery, among other things, it is hoped that the additional facilities will help accommodate tour parties.
The pavilion and tennis courts are at the King George V playing fields, at the junction of Linenhall Street and Commercial Road.
The site is owned by Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council.
The pavilion and tennis courts were relocated to Banbridge Leisure Centre in 2016 with the facility vacant since that time.
Now the council wants to enhance parking in the town and aims to use this site – as well as part of the public car park at Commercial Road – and bring it back into productive use.
Proposals have been drawn up which are now with ABC Council planning officials for consideration.
The pavilion would be demolished and the tennis courts removed.
In its place would be a ‘coach and vehicle park’, complete with turning area and access on to Commercial Road. The site would be fenced off.
To facilitate the new access, the entrance to the existing public car park would be relocated 70 metres along the Commercial Road. The works will include minor alterations to the public car park and reconfiguration of some of the available spaces.
A planning statement, compiled for council by Albert Fry Associates, explains the thinking behind the extra parking proposals.
It states: “The reason is to allow for coach tours that are visiting local attractions or travelling along the A1 to
stop in Banbridge town centre so that tourists can access the town centre’s local businesses and amenities.
“The council’s aim in this project is to boost the economy of the town centre by enhancing its accessibility for tourists.”
It says the site, as it stands, is, essentially, a wasted opportunity.
The statement adds: “The existing site was occupied previously with tennis courts that was a paid service open to the public, run by the council. The tennis courts were closed in 2016 and relocated to Banbridge Leisure Centre with the land on the existing site now unused.
“As the site hasn’t been operational as tennis courts and has been cordoned off from the public for over five years, it is debateable whether it can be considered an existing open space as it currently offers no public value.”
It reveals that as a parking facility it will benefit the community, tourists, businesses – present and future – as well as the local bowling club.
The statement reveals: “The main driver for the development is to bring community benefit by increasing tourist trade to the commercial centre of Banbridge by providing a parking facility for coach tours in a location convenient for pedestrian access to the local amenities and businesses.
“Increased tourism to the area can lead to existing businesses becoming more prosperous, as well as new business investment, which would create more employment opportunities for people residing in Banbridge.
“The development will also benefit the adjacent bowling club by providing car parking spaces and a pedestrian link to the club facilities. There is currently no direct pedestrian link to the club which is accessed off Meeting House Road.”
The proposals will now be advertised shortly with a decision expected over the summer months.
Alliance representative for Banbridge Joy Ferguson said the development “will come as good news to local businesses”.
“It will allow coach tours that are visiting local attractions such as the Game of Thrones Studio Tour or travelling along the A1 to stop in Banbridge town centre,” she said.
“The proposed project would facilitate domestic and international tourists access the town centre, enhancing visitor spend in support of local businesses.”