Downpatrick Regeneration Working Group Launches Living High Streets Framework
The Downpatrick Living High Streets Framework was successfully launched at an event in Down Arts Centre on Tuesday 12 September.
Downpatrick Regeneration Working Group in conjunction with The Ministerial Advisory Group (MAG) for Architecture and the Built Environment, Department for Communities and Newry, Mourne and Down District Council produced the Framework with the help of businesses, residents and stakeholders, to develop a vision for the town and put it in the best possible position for funding opportunities.
MAG co-designed the Living High Streets Craft Kit in response to the challenges faced by traditional high streets, and Downpatrick is one of the first places to put it into practice. The resulting Framework introduces work done to date to develop Downpatrick, outlines a vision for Downpatrick, and then outlines an action plan and next steps.
In the vision for Downpatrick outlined in the Framework, five key objectives are outlined: Sustainability, Town Centre First Approach, Valuing Heritage, Improving Connectivity, and Welcoming Place for Everyone.
And in the Action Plan section of the Framework, five strategies are outlined: Communications and Marketing, Making the Most of Existing Assets, Activating and Connecting Streets and Spaces, Improving Image – Tackle Vacancy, Frontages and Gateways, and Community Needs and Wants.
The details outlined in the Downpatrick Living High Streets Framework can be viewed online here: www.newrymournedown.org/downpatrick-regeneration
Included, for example, in the Improving Image – Tackle Vacancy, Frontages and Gateways section of the Framework are actions to encourage the use of vacant buildings, spaces and sites, to transform the former PSNI and Irish Street car park site, as well as collaboration to occupy vacant properties, the restoration and improvement of frontages and the improvement of approaches and gateways into the town.
As part of Communications and Marketing, ideas include creating a calendar of coordinated events and activities that can be shared to maximise connectivity and marketing opportunities, developing a Downpatrick passport with top 10 things to see and do, developing a set of experiential days out for different audiences and identifying physical, digital and oral collateral to support the offer such as signage, sculptures, street art, tours and maps.
Other themes in the Framework include maximising the potential of Down Arts Centre and Down County Museum, Downpatrick Library, the St Patrick Centre, Downpatrick and County Down Railway, the Bus Station and South Eastern Regional College.
An aspiration to improve the environment for people and cyclists rather than vehicles was also noted in the workshops. Downpatrick Regeneration Working Group wants to work with the Council, Department for Communities and Department for Infrastructure to improve traffic management and enforcement. Other actions are to develop a legible network of routes and trails, promote existing trails and guides, improve public spaces and create event space. Participants through the workshops expressed a desire to have more frequent activities, events and markets.
Potential identified projects in the Framework include the areas of St Patrick’s Square, Market Street and St Patrick’s Avenue, Scotch Street, De Courcy Square, Church Street, Irish Street, Entrances to Lynn Doyle Place, English Street, Dunleath Park, Event Space Options, and The Grove area.
Speaking after the launch, Downpatrick Regeneration Working Group Chair, Malachy McGrady said, “We have welcomed considerable interest in the launch of the Downpatrick Living High Street Framework and I would like to thank everyone who came along to our well attended Down Arts Centre launch on Tuesday evening.
“The passion for Downpatrick and its future potential has been made very clear. We have shared the responses from those who engaged with us in the series of workshops, meetings and surveys to ensure that this document represents the vision that all stakeholders in Downpatrick wish to see for the future.
“We have a vision for a vibrant Downpatrick and the Framework outlines our significant wish list for Downpatrick and the next steps. The work that has taken place to produce the Framework puts us in the best possible position for funding opportunities. But as I have indicated, the hard work of delivery starts now. We need to identify and secure funding to bring about the change we all want and I encourage our stakeholders, residents and businesses to stay with us on the journey.”
Vice Chair of the Downpatrick Regeneration Working Group, Councillor Oonagh Hanlon said, “Living High Streets is a fresh approach to placemaking that empowers local communities in collaboration with key stakeholders to re-imagine their high streets. It is an exciting project with great potential for Downpatrick and we are pleased by the enthusiasm shown by the local community.
“We have been working over the past 11 months to capture the priorities from the community groups, businesses, public sector, schools, charities and individuals. Thank you to everyone who has taken part so far, whether at our five workshops, our public event, or by attending the launch. We all want to see a vibrant, thriving Downpatrick which is able to build on its heritage and natural assets.”
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson, Cllr Valerie Harte said, “I congratulate Downpatrick Regeneration Working Group and all those who assisted them on the launch of the Downpatrick Living High Streets Framework. Considerable work has been undertaken supported by the Council and the Department of Communities and I thank all the community and business representatives that contributed to the document. We all want Downpatrick to realise its full potential as a great place to live, work, shop and relax in.
“The Living High Streets Framework has put Downpatrick in the best possible position to take advantage of future funding opportunities.”
Gerard Murray, Director from the Department for Communities said, “The Department for Communities was delighted to support the Downpatrick Regeneration Working Group to develop the Living High Streets Framework. The community led Framework has been co-designed using local knowledge and provides a road map to address the specific challenges faced by Downpatrick, prioritising them as deliverable actions. We will continue to work in partnership with the Group, and Newry Mourne and Down District Council, as it moves on to the next stage of delivery. The Department is currently working with partners to take forward projects that have been prioritised in the framework such as a new Skate Park, Pump Track in Dunleath Park; environmental improvement enhancements to Lynn Doyle Place and Church Street; and creating new meanwhile uses in the Irish Street area.”
Justine Daly, MAG Expert Advisor, leading the Living High Streets Initiative said, “MAG are grateful for the opportunity to facilitate the Downpatrick Pilot to use the Living High Streets Craft Kit. It been a rewarding process and we would like to thank the Downpatrick Regeneration Working Group and everyone that participated for your enthusiasm and generosity of time, skills and experience. The Living High Streets approach is a community led approach to placemaking that looks holistically at all aspects of the high street. This participatory approach, is also building skills, experience and confidence (social capacity) through meaningful collaboration to co-design the Framework and this will continue through delivering the Actions.”
The Living High Streets Craft Kit can be found on the DfC website https://www.communities-ni.gov.uk/publications/mag-living-high-streets-craft-kit.
Learning from the Downpatrick Pilot, MAG intends to develop additional guidance and tools to assist others planning to use the Living High Streets Craft Kit.