Plans that would remove Newry Cathedral’s parking have annoyed parishioners, with a recent survey showing 72% oppose the move.
Fr Francis Brown, the Co. Down cathedral’s administrator, warned that the plans to build a civic centre in the cathedral’s parking area would be “disastrous”.
“It means there would be no parking next to the cathedral, their plan is to take it all away,” Fr Brown said.
“If there’s no parking at the cathedral, not only for Sunday Masses, but for weekday – many of the people coming to the weekday Masses in particular, they’re retired, they can’t be walking a distance.
“It would be an absolute disaster. Naturally, parishioners are very annoyed.”
A recent survey conducted by Newry, Mourne and Down council, which received 1,600 responses and 6,000 comments, overwhelmingly opposed the move, Fr Brown pointed out.
“Around 1,600 parishioners responded to the survey and 72% were opposed to the development,” he continued. “Then there were 6,000 people who wrote… They were all pro-parish and against the councils plans.”
Cllr Patrick Brown said following a council meeting September 27 that the survey results make clear that “people of the area do not want a second civic centre in Newry”.
He added that despite this, councillors “are intent on ignoring the will of the people as expressed in the public consultation”.
The cathedral administration has suggested several different sites for the civic centre.
Another survey conducted by the council in 2016 of a number of sites regarded the cathedral site as “the least suitable”, Fr Brown added.
“But they’ve gone ahead despite that,” he said. “Parishioners are very annoyed with the council and the local councillors that they are ignoring the request from the parishioners to build their civic centre elsewhere and to leave the parking by the cathedral.”
The plans are part of the Newry City Regeneration Scheme.