‘Kill pessimism’ by tackling rural imbalance - Ald.
Ulster Unionist Councillor, Alderman Derek Hussey has welcomed the unanimous support he received after calling for the imbalance of provision and service to rural communities beyond the boundaries of Derry and Strabane to be redressed.
Speaking to fellow elected reps at the Council’s monthly meeting, Alderman Hussey said they often criticise the regional imbalance between the East and West of Northern Ireland whilst at the same time failing to deal with an internal balance between the two main urban areas of Derry and Strabane Town and those other parts of the district beyond their boundaries. Through a formal motion, he asked that Councillors now commit to addressing the issue.
“Council can ‘talk the talk’ but it was long past time for them to ‘walk the walk’ urged Alderman Hussey. He continued: “We have had reports commissioned by our own Council that are identifying provision that is in a deplorable state with notable hotspots, in particular, beyond the city and boundaries of Strabane Town.
“Play parks and sports pitches in our rural areas fall far behind the level of City and Strabane Town provision. These clearly show that rural representatives have not been crying wolf!
“Much has been made of Council’s vision for its greenways, but where are they? Council is proposing a 10km Greenway/ Cycle Path in Londonderry whilst residents in the Newtownstewart area have been calling for a Walkway to be sited along the A5 bypass for years and less than a single kilometre would provide linkage to achieve a much-needed recreational walkway. Greenways, riverside walks and cycle paths are also needed for our rural communities.
“The social, economic and environmental impact benefits of proper provision apply equally no matter where they are sited. Recreational activity, tourism, Aesthetic Quality and Place Making are just as important for our rural settlements. Shop Front enhancement schemes have been initiated for Londonderry and Strabane Town. Our rural settlements, such as Newtownstewart, Plumbridge, Donemana, Castlederg, all have businesses that would welcome similar enhancement of shop fronts which, in turn, can only improve the aesthetics of the local rural host communities.
“I trust that nobody in this Council has any desire to create ‘dormitory settlements’ beyond the boundaries of our two urban centres and that rather we all seek to ensure vibrant rural settlements in their own right.”
He added: “Make no mistake, there is a sense of peripherality, inequality in resources and piecemeal funding (crumbs from the table) the further from Londonderry and Strabane Town that you go. Kill that pessimism that exists. Address those areas most in need.... let us be decisive, let us end an era of retreat from the needs of our rural area of responsibility.”
After the Motion was carried unanimously Alderman Hussey said: “It is now important that all our rural representatives continue to identify the shortfall areas and ‘hold the feet of Council to the fire’ ensuring that these are not just ‘buzz words’ and that actions follow.”
By Gillian Anderson
Local Democracy Reporter