NI govt. hopeful of progress on Derry’s £11m Urban Village

The Executive Office have said they hope talks with the owner of the Meenan Square site will conclude soon to pave the way for an £11m transformation project.

The NI govt. department was responding to calls for delivery of a fitting development which served the needs of the local community in the Bogside as well as the legions of tourists and visitors who frequent the area.

Civil Rights veteran and Bogside native Vincent Coyle called for efforts to be redoubled to get the Meenan’s Field project moving.

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Mr Coyle also said that it should honour the wishes of local people, and be a fitting legacy for late Deputy First Minister and son of the city Martin McGuinness, who was involved in ensuring the Derry project was included in the Urban Villages initiative.

Derry’s iconic pub, the Bogside Inn in Meenan Square, was demolished over a year ago to make way for a new £11m redevelopment project. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2127GS – 024

In 2016, Martin McGuinness and then First Minister Arlene Foster announced that the revitalisation of the Meenan Square shops would be one of the priorities of a massive £45m investment across five ‘urban villages’ in the North.

Mr Coyle said that six years on, and over a year since existing structures on the site were demolished, local people wanted to know what was happening with the Derry project.

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He said: "It was to be about the future of our children, but as yet they have not started building on that site. Hopefully we will see work starting soon, and when we see that happening it will give local people some hope, especially young people.”

Mr Coyle said that those tasked with developing the site must listen to the views and ambitions of local residents about what facilities and amenities should be developed, and urged that tourist infrastructure / facilities was also important in an historic area of Derry which attracts tourists year round to visit Free Derry Wall, the Bogside Artists’ People’s Gallery, Museum of Free Derry, the Bloody Sunday monument, the Bishop Daly Garden of Reflection, and other unique sites.

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Vincent Coyle at the Bishop Daly Garden of Reflection he developed with others in the Bogside.

Mr Coyle said a youth hub was a must for young people, “something that our generation didn’t have during the Troubles”. He added that those tasked with taking it forward had “an obligation” to local people and the the late Martin McGuinness to get it right.

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Providing an update on the project, a spokesperson for The Executive Office said: “The Meenan Square site remains in private sector ownership.

“Discussions on the purchase of the site continue with the owners and delivery partners and we hope they will conclude soon, allowing Urban Villages to move forward with transforming the site into a shared space for fostering positive community identities; building good relations; and harnessing wider economic and social benefits for the local community.”

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Speaking back in the Bogside back in September 2016 at the launch of the Urban Villages projects, the late Martin McGuinness said: “The old approach of Government departments working in isolation is a thing of the past. In the Bogside, Fountain and Bishop Street, this means aligning approaches to health and wellbeing and supporting young people, and delivering capital investment to tackle dereliction and vacancy, including working with other government partners to take forward the regeneration of the Meenan Shops complex and further public realm improvements.”