Call for survey at ‘overlooked and unloved’ Derry park

Concern at the current state of Ballyarnett Country Park, the lack of amenities, anti-social behaviour and lack of disabled access led Aontú Councillor Emmett Doyle to bring a motion before Derry City & Strabane Full Council calling for a multi-disciplinary team to carry out a survey of Ballyarnett Country Park to identify what works need to be done to bring it to its full potential.

Saturday, 3rd July 2021, 10:50 am
Ballyarnett Country Park
Ballyarnett Country Park

Aontú Councillor Emmett Doyle felt the park was ‘overlooked and unloved, not by users or residents but by this council’.

“This motion and my remarks are not aimed at individual staff and officers but there is an onus on us all to work to ensure the park is brought up to standard. 

“I have visited many times with park rangers and residents and on one visit alone I was able to take 50 photos of areas in the park that are simply unacceptable.

“The remnants of fires in wooded areas, unsteady surfaces and inaccessible areas for those with mobility problems are just the tip of the iceberg.

“The play park is of a high standard and welcomed by families and young people in the area who often visit after school. Unfortunately, in my opinion, that’s where my praise ends.

“I had a call from the family of a park user in a wheelchair to express their fury, and rightly so, that their relative had gone over a pothole so deep, he had actually fallen from his chair.

“Before that another resident had felt the need to ring me and the police because a car had been abandoned in the park with its windows smashed overnight.

“Parents having to walk their children into bushes adjacent to the play park to go to the bathroom is another bone of contention for me. Notwithstanding the child protection issues that it raises.

“The two main proposals we establish will focus solely on the park – we need technical staff, to look at drainage, surfacing, horticulture and toilet access. I’ve also been in contact with DfI (Department for Infrastructure) Roads in relation to signage  and road safety and they should be invited to engage as part of this work.

“We need safe and clean toilet facilities in the park and the resource that goes with that must be found.”

SDLP Councillor Brian Tierney spoke of the level of antisocial behaviour in the park, condemning the actions of the perpetrators.

“It’s not something I want to see in any park, but particularly not in my own local park,” he said. “I would appeal once again to those people to stop destroying our beautiful areas.

“I do disagree that this park is being ignored by this council but I can see where one might get that opinion from.” 

Sinn Féin Councillor Sandra Duffy described Ballyarnett Country Park as ‘one of my favourite places’ adding: “The park has a masterplan and it would be absolutely transformational but it would need significant investment to really achieve anything that is contained within it.

“I would like to concentrate on the positive potential of the park. Over the past few weeks I have been engaging with Na Magha and Brian Óg’s who have massive personal aspirations for themselves as a club and the park. Some of these ambitions aren’t contained within the current master plan but they have the absolute potential to transform the park into a place of sporting excellence.

“I think a multi-agency group going forward to look at how we can best use the park is the way forward. I look forward to seeing progress on this.”

Supporting the motion, DUP Alderman Devenney added: “When you look back at the past year and the pandemic you realise the importance of green spaces to everyone.”

Summing up, Councillor Doyle said: “It’s positive to see support from across the virtual Chamber  and I look forward to working with all colleagues across the DEA to see the park used at its fullest capacity.”

The motion was carried unanimously.

By Gillian Anderson

Local Democracy Reporter