THE police station in Dungiven could be owned by Limavady Borough Council, who intend to convert the site to a community and sports facility, by May this year if a price can be agreed.
BY NIALL DEENEY
The Sentinel can reveal that the local council have made an expression of interest in the police station on Dungiven’s Main Street, and have already received a reply from Land and Property Services.
The next step for the council is to complete a Land and Property Services questionnaire in the coming weeks, before the ‘District Valuer’ puts a valuation on the property. This means that, as long as both sides can agree on the price, the transfer could be complete in the coming weeks with work starting shortly thereafter.
The council officer reporting back on an ‘economic appraisal’ for the proposed purchase said that the “transfer should be completed within six months from the date on which the property was declared surplus unless otherwise agreed between Council and the PSNI.”
The idea is that the former police station would be transformed from an unused barracks on the Main Street into a community and sports facility to serve both Dungiven and surrounding areas such as Burnfoot, Feeny, Gortnaghey and other local villages.
Local councillor Sean McGlinchey told the Sentinel that the transfer could be completed by May, and that the council will “hopefully know where we stand by early next week.”
He added: “The Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín wants a report on her desk by the first week of March because we are going for funding for it. It won’t be just from the rates.”
Speaking to the Sentinel ahead of a visit from Environment Minister Alex Attwood, the Sinn Féin representative explained the plans to upgrade sports provision in the wider Benbradagh area: “Obviously we are looking at all departments for funding. We need central funding, and as Carál Ní Chuilín did say, there is a massive need for it. The report itself (from a recent consultation exercise), recognises that. I would be confident that we can get central funding for the sports provision.”
He added: “If, and I do mean if, we go ahead with the site at the bottom of the town (Dungiven police station), with the Barracks and all that it would be a big boost to the town.”
Responding to concerns raised by another councillor for the Benbradagh area, Boyd Douglas, about the lack of unionist representation on the public consultation exercise into sports provision in the area, Mr McGlinchey said: “Boyd is not going to be happy no matter what. “
He added: “It’s not just for Dungiven – it is for the Benbradagh area which includes Dungiven, Burnfoot, Feeny, Foreglen – it is a wide area. Dungiven is central, but if you look at the example of Magherafelt council where they have facilities in Maghera for the wider rural area. We do need pitches and things like that for the many sporting teams there are here.
“I have to stress, this is a joint effort for everybody. I know it is from the council, but it is different parties; not just Sinn Féin. It is a council project. I have to say the council officials are very up for this and they have put a lot of work into this.
“I think this is important. No disrespect to Boyd Douglas but I think when you build facilities like this and everybody is in mixing together it will be a good thing – Burnfoot Football Club and Dungiven Celtics have a good relationship to use one example. Let’s not divide it, let’s have a hub where people can work together.”
Speaking last night, he continued: “I went down to Burnfoot and I made it very clear to them that it’s for them too. I pointed out down there that it will not just be for the people of Dungiven but it will be for everybody. One or two people said that they wouldn’t go into Dungiven because there is nothing there for them, but I said maybe if we had the facilities they would.
“The Presbyterian Church also came to me and asked if we would have any issues with us giving them over a bit of that ground for the car-parking spaces and a community space. I made it very clear that, no matter what, I would support that. We have to get it handed over to council first and then we will see what we can do for them, but absolutely, we will be supporting them
“Children are having to cross the busy road to get to the Guildhall across the way; so again, I want to make it clear we will fully support them in getting some of that ground.”
He added: “Hopefully we can do a deal with the developers by the end of the week.”