Down GAA’s plans for a new multi-million training facility in Ballykinlar have been given the green light.
Councillors unanimously voted in favour of the development at a meeting of the planning committee on July 28.
The application for a purpose-built Centre of Participation on land previously owned by the British Ministry of Defence was approved on Wednesday morning by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council’s planning committee.
The plan had been opposed by three residential homes in the local area who said that the potential site could cause noise pollution, traffic congestion, loss of privacy and potential for increased anti-social behaviour.
The full development will include four full size GAA pitches, three of which will be floodlit, spectator seating, multi-use games area, changing rooms, fitness studio, ancillary offices, canteen, museum, shop, and road improvements.
SDLP councillor John Trainor, who proposed the plans, said it would bring much needed investment to the Co Down village.
He said: “I am more than happy to propose the council officers recommendations for approval.
“This is great investment into the local area, great investment into the sport and will help the generations of young players for Down GAA going forward, not to mention it will bring a footfall to the local economy.”
Independent councillor Glynn Hanna said while it looked like a “fantastic facility”, he questioned whether it could cause “traffic issues”.
“I would question whether there’s enough parking at the site. It’s very hard to tell how much parking will be at the site. If there were a number of major events at the one time would there be capacity for it all?
“What we wouldn’t want happening is for people to start parking on the sides of the roads because that would really start to annoy the residents.”
However, county secretary Sean Og McAteer said that the facility would not host major GAA matches or events, but instead provide a training facility and games for U16, U14 and GAA Go games for smaller children
The site will also include 340 parking spaces installed at the new development.
Meanwhile, a number of conditions have been attached to the successful application, including a five-year deadline for the development to commence.
The floodlights at the new site will also not be allowed to operate after 10pm Monday to Friday and 9pm on Saturday and Sunday.
Chair of the planning committee, Cllr Declan McAteer said it was an “historic day” for Co Down.
“This is a very exciting and historical development for this area for the GAA and Ministry of Defence who have given the grounds back for public use.
“It’s historically momentous that it has been given over to the GAA as just 100 years ago the very same land was used during the War of Independence as an internment camp.
“It’s a great achievement for both parties to come together to provide such a great facility.”