£5.1m Derry Walled City Public Realm to 'transform city centre streets' works to commence this summer

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The Department for Communities (DfC) has outlined major plans to update Derry’s Walled City Public Realm.

At a meeting of Derry city and Strabane District Council’s Environment and Regeneration Committee on Wednesday, April 17, DfC’s North West Development Officer, Paul Mc Naught, said the £5.1 million project would “transform a number of streets adjacent with the historic City Walls”.

He added: “It is the Department’s largest investment in public realm project since the completion of the Guildhall Square and Waterloo Place scheme in 2010.

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“Initial considerations for this project actually started in 2011, and we identified that this area needed a substantial, high quality intervention due to its location and condition.

Palace Street car park in Derry city centre.Palace Street car park in Derry city centre.
Palace Street car park in Derry city centre.

“The public realm is not in keeping with a popular and vibrant city centre location, as it was installed in the mid-1990’s and is now demonstrating significant deterioration.

“Instead of a quick fix it was decided a more transformative change would be developed, and an extensive consultation was carried out in 2016.

“It wasn’t until May 2021 that consultants recommenced work, the Minister [of Communities] at the time, Deirdre Hargey, approved funding in October, and a business case was approved in November.

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“We have recently appointed FP McCann, who we worked with on the Guildhall Square scheme as the contractor and they are due to start on site this summer. Construction will last for 18 months, completing in early 2026.

“Following stakeholder consultation in the Society Street and Palace Street area, we have amended plans to replace the Society Street car park with a public park and have now agreed to retain a 20-space car park.

“It’s fair to say it has taken us a while to get here, but I’m looking forward to seeing this project delivered on the ground and making a much-needed change to this area of the city.”

Eleanor Fuller, who represented landscape architects the Paul Hogarth Company, outlined proposed changes to the area, including the widening and resurfacing of footpaths with “robust and high quality stone”, LED lighting, and an event space.

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SDLP Councillor Martin Reilly noted that the construction plans would overlap with NI Water’s upgrading of the water infrastructure along Foyle Street, and asked if there had been “conversations with other public bodies”.

Mr McNaught said there had been “regular discussions with NI Water on that project”, but it wasn’t ideal that the works would be occurring contemporaneously.

“The traffic management they’ll have in place will be a significant issue,” he added. “But the streets we’re working on are supplementary and it will be a phased process, so we’ll be phasing it and not sealing off the entire area at one time.”

People Before Profit Councillor Shaun Harkin said Derry City Centre was “unique” and anything to improve it was welcome.

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“It’s also welcome that a department is investing in the City Centre, because over the last couple of years we’ve looked through our budgets and found some departments wanting in terms of their commitment to the public realm.

“There could be more done at a department level and the council ends up being responsible for upkeep that it’s not responsible for.

“We’ve had a number of changes to the layout that have backfired over the last couple of years, many of which were well-intentioned and trialled, so I hope this one goes better.”

Andrew Balfour,

Local Democracy Reporter