PLANNED works to bring Melvin Arena up to the standard required to allow Strabane Athletic to play IFA Championship/Premier Intermediate League games will not take place ahead of an April deadline, council has confirmed.
In a report to Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Health and Community Committee earlier this month, the head of Community Development and Leisure detailed how a contractor going into administration and a subsequent delay in the planning process means that if the football club is promoted, they will not be able to avail of that promotion and advance in the league system. One of the key criteria needed to allow them to host home matches at Melvin is the provision of a 200 seater stand for supporters.
Council previously approved capital investment of £1.15M to upgrade the facilities at Melvin Arena up to the current IFA intermediate premiership standards and to upgrade floodlighting facilities for user groups on this site.
“Following a tendering process, WDR & RT Taggart were appointed in January 2019 as the design team to deliver the project,” the report to council explained. “Having worked up initial designs and submitted a planning application notice (PAN), Taggart’s went into administration in March 2019.
“Consequently, it was necessary to retender the works with Gregory Architects appointed as lead architect in late April 2019.
“The retendering process, and allowing for the new architects to become fully familiar with the project, caused an unforeseen and approximate two month delay to the project.”
The report added, “Current estimated completion of the project as a result of delay in the planning submission and processing is expected to be autumn 2020. This will mean the facilities will not meet if required, the IFA ground inspection date of April 30 2020 for any new clubs wishing to apply to enter the league at that level.”
Present at the relevant committee meeting, Strabane independent councillor, Paul Gallagher said for the club to miss out on promotion for the second year running is unacceptable. He proposed a “plan B.”
“I proposed a report be carried out into a temporary-permanent structure, something that could be put in place before the April deadline,” he explained.
“Planning has already been approved and this structure would allow the IFA inspection to take place. Works could continue after that to install the full permanent structure.”
The outcome of that proposal is as yet unclear however West Tyrone MLA, Daniel McCrossan believes council have not done enough to ensure this project is progressed within the promised time-frames.
Mr McCrossan commented, “This issue has been before council for a long number of months and I’ve yet to see any determined progress being made to ensure the facilities are upgraded within the agreed time-frame.
“This has come at the detriment of local sports clubs such as Strabane Athletic, its players, supporters and the people of Strabane.”