A planning decision on the future use of the former Maghera High School site is expected before the end of the year, the Mail understands.
Mid Ulster District Council wants to turn the 16-acre site off Tobermore Road into a business park with eight industrial units while residents have been campaigning for a park which the local community could enjoy.
Meetings have been taking place between councillors and representatives from the campaign group ‘Take Action for Maghera Park’, who have been opposing the plan for over a year. A spokesperson for the group said that they have had “open and engaging discussion” with councillors in recent weeks.
“Sinn Féin and the DUP have, in particular, reflected back on the huge number of objections received to the council’s propositions, 1,338 in total, and have suggested there may be cause for a rethink,” said a spokesperson.
“A lack of any park provision and shared space in the busy Mid Ulster town, as well as the recognition that the local community was not adequately consulted on the future of their former recreation grounds at the High School site, have prompted further discussion among council officials.
“Suggestions that an alternative site may be being considered, whilst welcome, in that the council is now taking the health and well-being of the local community seriously, were met with caution.”
The spokesperson stressed that councillors were reminded of “the great affection Maghera townsfolk feel towards this site of high environmental importance.”
She added: “Should the need for industrial land in Maghera be so urgent, as some councillors have suggested, the availability of a similarly sized site on the council’s own reclaimed dump, just half a mile further out on the Tobermore Road, may be worth considering.
“This would negate the need for the wholesale environmental destruction of 16 acres of mature parkland belonging to the people of Maghera.
“Discussions are ongoing and we await the outcome of the council’s planning application with interest. In the meantime, the campaign continues to enjoy growing support from individuals, groups, businesses, schools, academics, environmentalists and we would like to thank every one of them for supporting the vision of Maghera Park, in the future growing and building of our wonderful community.”
A Mid Ulster Council spokesperson said a community consultation was undertaken as part of the pre-application planning process for the proposed business park at the former Maghera High School site.
She said: “The views expressed at this consultation have, in fact, been taken into account and revisions are currently being made to designs which will be submitted for planning purposes in due course.
“It is also important to point out that no responses regarding a public park on this site were made when the council undertook its consultation to inform the development of a new Parks strategy for Mid Ulster.
“There are, however, proposals to enhance the existing play park offering on the Coleraine Road in Maghera and the town’s leisure centre. Indeed, in June work also completed on the new £250K 600m Largantogher walkway which for the first time connects the Walled Garden to the Tobermore Road. The walkway boasts new pathways, lighting and landscaping.”