Council Chairman’s Christmas message

AS Chairman of Cookstown District Council, I wish to offer seasonal greetings and best wishes to everyone throughout the Cookstown District Council area for 2012.

May I extend a warm welcome to those who have returned to our District over the festive period to spend time with loved ones. In this season of goodwill we are especially mindful of those who are less fortunate than ourselves, at home and abroad and those who will be alone over the festive period. We spare a thought for them.

This past year has continued to be extremely challenging, for businesses in the Mid Ulster area. We are acutely aware of the impact the current economic climate has had on the local economy and have witnessed an increase in job losses, reduced working hours and the closure of local businesses. Council is fully aware of the financial demands and pressures faced by local businesses and residents, and such pressures are continually at the forefront of our minds. As we look towards 2012, and embark upon the New Year, we will endeavour to ensure that opportunities are presented which will contribute to assisting and maintaining the economic and social well being of the whole community.

In these extremely tough times, the Council continues to lead from the front in the delivery of services and providing facilities to meet the expectations of local people. The new 3G floodlit pitch at the Mid Ulster Sports Arena is now complete and the extension to the evolve fitness suite at Cookstown Leisure Centre has commenced. Such works will enhance the current facilities and ensure that our leisure services are second to none. Throughout 2011, Council has continued to deliver key strategic events including Cookstown Together, the very popular Strongman event, Halloween fireworks display at the Mid Ulster Sports Arena and the switching on of the Christmas lights in a beautifully lit town centre. Furthermore we have exciting plans in place to further build and develop key facilities throughout our District over the next three years. Such investment will cement Cookstown District Council’s position as being one of the most prudent but progressive and innovative Council’s, delivering on behalf of our citizens.

We in Cookstown District Council pride ourselves upon our close and positive relationship that has been established with our business community. We continue to work together with local and regional funding bodies to secure funding to deliver innovative programmes which are specifically designed to equip local businesses with the expertise and knowledge to compete in the current economic climate. We are particularly recognised for our concerted efforts towards enhancing the performance of the Town Centre and businesses there in. We continue to invest significantly in supporting retail and promoting the Town Centre as the ‘Retail Capital of Mid Ulster’. This was duly recognised in September through the low vacancy rate recorded for Cookstown, which is testament to the continued commitment of the local business community to continually strive to meet the needs of residents and visitors alike. In this challenging climate it is incumbent upon us all to support the local traders to ensure that the low vacancy rate recorded for Cookstown is maintained into 2012. I can assure the business community, that Council will continue to lead from the front in promoting Cookstown as a key retail destination.

The Cookstown District has been and is still a key location for mainstream agriculture and agri-food production and we are extremely fortunate to have major agri-food producers such a Vion and Dale Farm who are globally recognised for their produce and provide valuable employment throughout our region.

In addition I would like to acknowledge the work that has been undertaken by the public and private sector to build on the tourism industry. The efforts to maximise the tourism potential of Lough Neagh and the Sperrins are to be commended and I look forward to further and substantive progress within these destinations over the next two years.

I also wish to acknowledge the tremendous work undertaken by the community and voluntary sector throughout our District. The efforts of such organisations and individuals assist and improve the lives of many on a daily basis. Such work often goes unnoticed, however Cookstown District Council wishes to record its gratitude for your tireless efforts and invaluable contribution to society.

May I also pay tribute to the performances of individuals and organisations in the field of arts, education, sport and business. Many have attained national and international recognition which is a direct result of their commitment and dedication to their relevant discipline. I wholeheartedly congratulate you all. Year on year the achievements and talent throughout the District continue to grow, providing an inspiration to others to work hard and achieve their ambitions.

It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the accolade of ‘Ireland’s Best Kept Large Town 2011’ which Cookstown was awarded in July. This award was the result of the concerted efforts of the Council, local businesses, schools and residents to ensure Cookstown is a vibrant place to live, work and invest. It is a great achievement for Cookstown to be publically recognised as Ireland’s Best Kept Large Town and a tribute to each and every individual both resident and visitor alike. I commend all involved and look forward to further successes in 2012.

On behalf of Cookstown District Council, I wish to thank the general public for the support you have shown to us over the last year. May I wish all our citizens, your families and extended families a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Peaceful 2012.

Councillor Sean Clarke

Chairman, Cookstown District Council