Doire Trasna’s long standing plans for a new club pitch and facilities at Top Of The Hill have been given the green light by Derry & Strabane Council’s Planning Committee.
Work at the former Immaculate Conception College site is now expected to get underway in the next couple of weeks after a recommendation to approve the major project received the unanimous backing of Councillors at a meeting in the Guildhall on Wednesday night.
The project, being undertaken on behalf of the Council, involves the upgrade of the existing playing pitches to provide a new grass, floodlit GAA football pitch, with modular changing facilities and associated site work, and the refurbishment of the existing all-weather multi-use pitch just off the Trench Road.
The project was first mooted over 40 years ago, and has been a long held ambition of Piarsaigh Doire Trasna GAC, who have been involved in driving it forward.
Planning officials told the committee on Thursday that the site area measures 3.4 hectares and that a new access to it will be developed via Corrody Road.
The site is bounded by Corrody Road and Top of the Hill Park to the west, Hollymount Park housing estate to the south, existing playing fields to the east, and a new social housing development currently under construction to the north.
The project will be of major benefit to the local community and involves a “positive reuse” of a redundant school site, the committee was told.
Speaking at the meeting, Sinn Fein Councillor Patricia Logue welcomed the development, stating that this was “another piece of the jigsaw on this site.”
“It will be a very welcome development for the community, and it is another great example of the money that has gone into the Social Investment Fund.”
SDLP Councillor for the area Tina Gardiner also welcomed the development. She said: “It is great to see this happening in Top Of The Hill, it will help rejuvenate the area. We have new housing and new life coming into the area and it is great.”
DUP Councillor Hilary McClintock also backed the project. She said: “it is great to see old school sites being brought back into community use.”
Speaking after the meeting, Sinn Fein Councillor for the area Christopher Gallagher said the planning approval marked a “great day for Gaelic games in the Waterside”.
“News of this development will undoubtedly build on the great work that is currently ongoing between the communities there,” said Councillor Jackson.
“Despite being one of the only GAA clubs in the county without a home ground, the club has been going from strength to strength over recent years, both on the pitch on and off it through the promotion of Irish language and culture.
“With over 300 members, Na Piarsaigh are an integral part of the Top of the Hill community. This pitch will ensure that this remains the case for generations to come.”
“The campaign for this pitch dates back to the 1970s and has come to a reality due to the Social Investment Fund driven by the late Martin McGuinness.
“Martin realised the impact projects such as this would have in communities and I would like to congratulate all those on the SIF board who shared Martin’s vision.
“Once built I also hope that it will attract more young people into sport and provide a positive outlet.”