£1m Steeple funding on the cards

ANTRIM and Newtownabbey Borough Council is closer to scooping over £1m for the refurbishment of the Steeple Park in Antrim.

One of the council’s Capital Projects, with a number of elements included, the park itself has been identified as an underused heritage asset which includes a scheduled monument and Grade 1 listed structure in the Round Tower, along with other natural and built heritage features.

A report said that local councillors have been involved in progressing the proposals to design and improve the park area, ‘which will compliment the councils other health and well-being, cultural and heritage plans for the location as a whole’.

Having developed the scope of the Steeple Round Tower and Park Heritage Conservation Project, the report said that the opportunity to submit an application to the Heritage Fund was identified.

There are a range of funding streams for heritage projects with the grant category offering funding of between £250,000 to £5 million identified as the appropriate funding stream for this project.

A two stage process includes an Expression of Interest (EOI), invited by the Heritage Fund on a quarterly basis with the last round in May.

An EOI for the Steeple Round Tower and Park Heritage Conservation Project for £1,024,320 was submitted, with the project estimated to cost £1,280,000.

The project scope includes park restoration and path construction, drainage and wetland creation, tree planting and conservation and new heritage entrance feature landscaping

There are also plans for Round Tower ‘refurbishment’ - although as a scheduled ancient monument, this is likely to mean repair and conservation, plus new signage and interpretation

Correspondence has been received from the Heritage Fund advising that the EOI has been successful and that a formal application for funding for this project is invited.

The report said that there is a twelve-month period allowed for the submission of a full application and Heritage Fund officers will engage with council officers to assist with both the development of the project and the application process.

It is due to be proposed at a meeting of the Community Planning Committee this week that a suitable architect is appointed to progress the development of the project to the stage required for submission of a full application to the Heritage Fund.

However it is thought that long-term, a multi-disciplinary team led by a landscape architect will be required.

In the pipeline for decades, the transformation of the Steeple Area is now finally taking shape.

An initial plan to sell pitches for development to help fund the project was binned after strong community objection.

Apricot Health Care are planning a new ‘health campus’ to the rear of the current Civic Centre.

The old council HQ, which was destroyed by fire in 2019 and outbuildings will also be redeveloped into ‘flexible exhibition space’.

The dedicated path network and signage is hoped to attract new visitors and enable local children to walk to Antrim Grammar and Parkhall College.

Meanwhile, the Round Tower and monastic site is to be promoted as a tourist attraction.

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