Plans to re-develop the Parade Ground at Ebrington Square in Derry have been re-drawn due to health and safety issues over the current surface, it has been confirmed.
The Executive Office said there have been various issues with the loose gravel surface since it was installed six years ago as part of a £7.5 million redevelopment of the five-acre square.
Ebrington Square is the largest outdoor arena in the north west and has hosted some of the biggest cultural events ever staged in the city.
A planning application to remove and the existing gravel surface and replace it with aggregate concrete and grass, was lodged several weeks ago.
A spokesperson for The Executive Office said: “The current surface for Ebrington Square was installed in 2011 as part of wider works to the site.
“There has been a number of issues raised in respect of the current surface, in particular health and safety concerns, poor drainage and issues regarding blowing sands during prolonged dry spells which created maintenance issues around the periphery of the former parade ground.”
The spokesperson added: “We have sought professional advice along with significant input from Derry City and Strabane District Council on options for a new surface which would address these difficulties. Given these issues we have been investigating alternative options.”
The departmental spokesperson confirmed that the proposed surface would be similar to that used in the Connswater Greenway and CS Lewis Square developments in Belfast.
The Executive Office confirmed that it would provide the funding needed for the resurfacing project at the former army parade ground site, but said that the total cost has not yet been worked out.
“The exact level of funding required is not yet confirmed but will be provided by The Executive Office,” he maintained.
Derry City & Strabane District Council was due to take over responsibility for the Ebrington site in the Spring, but it has been now also been confirmed that no date has yet been set for the transfer, despite earlier statements that it would take place at the end of March, 2018.
The spokesman said: “The Executive Office is working with the council to agree a specific date for transfer of the site.
“The due diligence process is ongoing and council officers are being provided with information in relation to developments at the site.”
He added that the Executive Office was continuing to work to develop the site, and welcomed the recent decision by the Department for Infrastructure to recommend for planning approval the new access road off the Limavady Road into Ebrington.
Ebrington Square was officially opened amid major celebrations to the public in February, 2012. The entire 26-acres Ebrington site, which had been a military barracks for over 150 years, was handed over for public use in 2003.
Ebrington Square has, since its opening five years ago, been used as the staging ground for some of the biggest events ever held in the city including music concerts, outdoor art, theatre, sport events and even world record attempts. The Peace One Day Concert, BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend, MTV Club events, the Walled City Tattoo and Clipper concerts are among the largest events to have been staged at Ebrington Square since 2012.
It has previously hosted the Christmas Lights Switch On and the Christmas market, although both annual fixtures have since been transferred back to the city centre.