Dungiven sports project: Fresh row over £2.8m funding

Curragh Road Image copyright Geograph/Kenneth Allen
Image caption The sports and leisure facilities are to be built in the Curragh Road area of Dungiven

A fresh row has broken out among councillors over a new £2.8m sports and leisure project in Dungiven, County Londonderry.

The scheme has been in the pipeline for a number of years.

On Tuesday night, unionists on Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council voted against plans to give it the go ahead due to a "considerable financial shortfall".

However, Sinn Féin accused unionist councillors of "blocking the project".

'Sectarian decision'

The original cost of the project was in the region of £7m, including a pledge of £2.5m from the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL).

The project was later reduced in size by the new Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council.

It is understood the facilities would have all been on one site and would have included halls, a gym and 3G facilities.

Sinn Féin councillor Sean McGlinchey told BBC Radio Foyle: "The facilities that are already in Dungiven are shocking and have been condemned.

"We need this upgrade for the young people and long-time residents of Dungiven.

"A sectarian decision was made last night. This is a fully-funded project.

"We will take this to the minister and we will be having a public meeting in Dungiven tonight (Wednesday).

"Maybe if we agreed on flags in the meeting then unionist councillors would have went ahead and said yes to this project."

'£300,000 shortfall'

However, Ulster Unionist councillor Daryll Wilson said it was "not a sectarian issue".

He said the plan had been "on the table for over a year now".

"We previously put a ban on spending on sports until we had an overview of the entire Causeway Coast and Glens area," he said.

"There was a £4.5m project at the Joey Dunlop centre in Ballymoney that was postponed.

"£2.8m is now needed. With DCAL providing £2.5m, that means there is a considerable financial shortfall of around £300,000. So, it is not fully funded yet.

"We support the project but only if all of the money comes from the minister and DCAL."

'Regrettable'

DCAL minister Carál Ní Chuilín said: "I am extremely disappointed that this much-needed project has been voted down by some members of the council.

"It is a very regrettable outcome which means that the development, which was due to get underway next month, cannot now proceed at this time.

"I had committed to funding of £2.5m towards the provision of a modern community sports facility to meet the needs of the people in the Dungiven area."

The remaining funding needed to deliver the project totalled £339,000 and a grant for that amount had been approved by the regulator of the Landfill Community Fund but required borough council agreement.

The minister added: "This multi-sports facility was planned to address a real need in Dungiven and the surrounding areas. It was something the entire community could enjoy and would have benefited everyone.

"It was also investment for an area which has suffered from a lack of government funding over the years. The centre was the second phase of a package for the north-west which was part of the legacy to the City of Culture.

"I recently received a letter from the mother of a disabled boy. She described how her son has to travel some distance to train for his sports."

She said the new facilities in Dungiven would "have given this young man the facilities he deserves".

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