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The Canal – A new beginning

Two thirds of Newry’s new £2.4m canal bank walkways opened to the public last week with members of the public getting their first opportunity to tread the city’s Boardwalk.  The stretch from Sugar Island to Quayside Inn opened last Thursday with the final stretch in front of the Buttercrane scheduled to open in the coming months. The completion of the works has been welcomed by business and maritime groupings who believed the project will stimulate future investment along the historic waterway. According to Jack Murphy of Newry City Centre Management, “I think it looks spectacular and will be a huge benefit to the city. It opens up the canal which is a great amenity and it provides a gateway between the old and new town. We can’t stop here and we need to upgrade other areas. We still have to look at car parking and there is the application for the land at the rear of the old CARS site sp I’d like the planners to help make that viable.” The Inland Waterways Association of Ireland (IWAI) and Newry Maritime Association (NMA) were also fulsome in their praise. According to James McArevey of NMA, “I think people will really welcome it. When Christmas comes and the lights go up it will look amazing.” Geraldine Foley of IWAI is also happy to see the facility open. More than £2m has been spent on this upgrade, a move supported by the IWAI,” she said. “We have been stakeholders in the project and while not all of our suggestions were met we did get some way towards future proofing the canal so it can be used by boats with mooring and service points included in the design. Our canal needs to be used. A waterway without activity on the water is like a road without cars or a house without tenants – pointless.” The rationale behind projects such as the canal bank scheme is to attract investment. In 2012 befor the Hill Street and Monaghan Street scheme the Reporter’s High Street Survey counted 30 vacant ground floor premises on the two streets. The 2014 survey counted just 21 vacant units – with two further businesses having opened since the April count. As such it is hoped that the number of vacant premises along the canal will now fall as the result of the investment. At Present there are 11 empty units between the Island Arcade and the Quayside Inn, something Jack Murphy of City Centre Management expects to see fall. “I am hoping that the walkways will open eyes with regards to the potential on that stretch,” he said. Some of the buildings which are in neglect will hopefully receive investment. The old Tax Office has already been sold and I understand the plan top raise it by two or three levels so we could see units on the ground floor and offices above. You build a city from the ground outwards. We have reduced the number of vacant units on Hill Street and Monaghan Street and I want to see that continue here.” Clarification over the cost and facilitation of on-street trading on the new Canal walkways is a priority according to Newry City Centre Management. The Reporter recently revealed that at £4,432 the cost of on-street licences in Newry and Mourne are up to 10 times those charged in other Council areas. This something traders want addressed before they invest in seating and kiosks. Speaking to the Reporter Jack Murphy of City Centre Management said traders are interested provided the price in right. “The costs need to be looked at,” he said. “I don’t know how they were arrived at as they are totally wrong. I’ve talked to a number of cafes and restaurants and they have said they would like to invest on a seasonal basis (summer and Christmas). A soon as the holiday period is over we can look at the costings. I’d encourage traders who are interested to contact us. A number already have.”


Newry Reporter

16th July 2014