adminwp April 6, 2006
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‘Advance factories’ were all the rage a few decades ago, when our politicians and business leaders felt it important to attract foreign investment to Newry to create employment in production-generating industries. 


They were built, at the taxpayers expense but the majority are now used as discount warehouses for the commercial and retail market. Our current batch of idle, self-publicising politicians prefer apparently to oversee the flight from Newry of what few administrative and Civil Service jobs that once remained to us!

‘Armagh Active’ makes the point well on Discussions Forum, highlighting – quote – Rates to Portadown, Housing Executive to Craigavon, Council – and its administrative staff – soon to Banbridge/Craigavon. One might add Tax Office to Craigavon, Local Studies Library Services to Armagh and all other jobs to Belfast. Our current house-building boom is predicated on local workers willing to commute to these cities and to Dublin in the other jurisdiction. Where then, one might ask, are the well-paid, permanent jobs in the projected new multi-billion pound Albert Basin development?

Expect endless choral chanting of the hundreds of hotel and retail/office jobs that will be on offer. Before you swallow that one, take a stroll into the Mourne Country Hotel – or indeed the Francis Court or the Canal Court – when there is no large function or dance/disco on, and observe how they run on skeleton staffs. Remember the number of times the Newry Democrat headlined the hundreds of jobs in Bellinis, to name but one new (attractive and worthwhile!) development. Stroll in now and count the number of (part-time, low-paid) staff you see.

Besides construction work, the only employment on offer will be part-time, temporary minimum wage jobs and most likely staffed by desperate economic immigrants!

In any case, to my cursory inspection of these drawings, there are no industrial or production units planned for The City Quays – as the projected development has been dubbed. We are looking here at a ‘flagship’ multi-storey hotel and conference/exhibition/event centre with office space, car-parking (insufficient, as usual – where’s the vehicular accessto the hotel in the above drawing?) and town housing/luxury apartments. The Project Overview suggests

‘..that financing and operation (sic) of the center (sic) be placed in the hands of (sic) the public sector.’

The document, written in American English, at times beggars belief. That planned huge, high-rise hotel is described as a ’boutique hotel’. We will have ‘clustered office condos‘. Also a marino rimmed with retail (sic) and restaurants. The drawings all have jetties with dozens of pleasure yachts tied up alongside. I’d like to know what percentage of the time since The Quays Shopping Complex was built there has been more than one small boat in the Basin, despite the Yacht logo of the Centre? Why would this increase when a further hazard to incoming vessels – namely an arterial swing-bridge – is added?   Does the above drawing suggest merely pedestrain access via those three bridges? 

Perhaps the most pertinent question is how all this fits in with the Newry Area Plan? What large fraction of the scarce available resources for development will be channelled into ‘The Island’ when some 30% of the Town Centre consists of derelict and boarded-up unused property? Why doesn’t the Council use its staff to audit these properties and explore the alternatives to shifting all commercial/retail activity to The Albert Basin?
 

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