Council ignoring public park pleas say protestors

The site of the former High School in Maghera where Mid Ulster Council are proposing to locate a business park
The site of the former High School in Maghera where Mid Ulster Council are proposing to locate a business park

An action group opposed to plans to develop a business park at the former Maghera High School site, has accused Mid Ulster District Council of “ploughing on” with the project and ignoring the wishes of the local community.

Maghera Action Group (MAG) is holding another public meeting in the town tonight (Thursday) to give local residents an opportunity to show their support for the campaign for a public park.

Yesterday, (Tuesday) Mid Ulster Council rejected the accusation that it was ignoring the wishes of the community, and stressed the views expressed during the consultation have been taken into account and included in the planning application.

Tensions appear to have been raised after householders received neighbour notifications letters from the council setting out plans for industrialising the old high school woodland and grounds off Tobermore Road.

“Plans have gone out which show scant regard for the wishes of the local community,” said a MAG spokesperson. “Over 1,300 people signed a petition to save the site for community use, and provide much needed park facilities instead, with nearly 600 objection letters received into the council’s consultation.”

She claimed people were shocked that the council was proposing the destruction of over 30 mature trees, and a further clearance of all trees and shrubs on the perimeter fence to accommodate a concrete path. She claimed inclusion of a children’s play park at a later date would result in the destruction of the remaining woodland.

The spokesperson said a large park on the site would provide an essential green environment, opportunity for shared space and community events, as well as encouraging visitors to the town, and support local schools.

A council spokesperson said: “There is a comprehensive report on the outcome of the consultation which was undertaken as part of the pre-application planning process and we would encourage interested parties to read the report in full to understand both the history of the site development proposals, the issues raised by consultees and the response to those issues.

“The former High School site has been earmarked for economic development for some time and its potential for business growth, job creation and regeneration has long been recognised, from the former Magherafelt Council’s report A Vision For Maghera 2015 to the over-arching Mid Ulster Community Plan, the Maghera Physical Development Framework and Action Plan 2017-30 and in the town’s Action Plan.

“However, the views expressed during the consultation have, in fact, been taken into account and the planning application now includes proposals for new pathways through woodland and open space around the southern area of the site, as well as enhanced soft landscaping with new tree planting and the establishment of wildflower areas.”

Maghera Action Group’s public meeting is planned for The Link, St Lurach’s Road, at 8.15pm on Thursday.