Row over community centres rumbles on

Craigavon Civic Centre. PT03-213.
Craigavon Civic Centre. PT03-213.

The new ABC Council has been handed a major headache from Craigavon Borough Council – how to deal with Lurgan’s community centres row.

On Monday night last, Craigavon voted on a 16-6 Orange-Green basis to throw out the recommendation of a £10,000 survey from consultants - that £500,000 should be spent on upgrading the North Lurgan Community Centre, but just £150,000 each on the Mourneview and Avenue Road centres.

The council’s development committee had rejected the consultants’ finding and instead recommended spending £500,000 on all three. But with Craigavon Borough Council being scrapped on April 1 for the advent of ABC, the final decision will rest with the new body.

Councillor Sean Mackle said that the consultants’ recommendations were “spade ready” for Craigavon to go ahead with the £500,000 on North Lurgan and the £150,000 on the other two and the decision could be the last of the council in this the penultimate meeting.

Councillor Gemma McKenna agreed, adding, “This has been on the table for quite a while”, after which Mr Mackle said that 11,000 people would benefit in North Lurgan, compared with the 4,000 in the others which “are under-used”. And Councillor Joe Nelson insisted, “The North Lurgan centre hasn’t been touched in 30 years.”

Alderman Carla Lockhart led the charge for £500,000 to be spent on all three, claiming that Avenue Road and Mourneview “aren’t fit for purpose and that’s why they can’t be used to their full potential”

And Councillor Meta Crozier insisted that South Lurgan must get its fair share, while Councillor Mark Baxter insisted that rural areas like Donaghcloney and Waringstown must be included in the South Lurgan count.

Ms McKenna said, “There’s an election coming up”, adding that the new council wouldn’t go on such a spending spree with the rates already set. But Ms Lockhart insisted that there was a unionist majority in ABC that would give “fair play to all sections of the Lurgan community”.

A recorded vote showed that 16 unionists supported moving the issue forward into the new council and six nationalists opposed.