BUSINESS leaders in Omagh have hit out after it emerged that the town will receive just £450,000 in council funding for capital projects compared to £4.5 million earmarked for the Fermanagh area.
Fermanagh and Omagh District Council approved a programme of support for seven different projects focusing on Enniskillen and one – the Campsie Revitalisation scheme – in Omagh.
Colm Broderick, the President of Omagh Chamber of Commerce, said the figures were ‘annoying and frustrating’ especially in light of the number of ambitious capital schemes locally which remain in limbo.
“The Council needs to adopt a fair approach to its capital projects and these plans indicate that this isn’t happening at the moment,” he said.
“It is vital that the two areas are treated equally and I would urge the council to strike that balance between both Omagh and Fermanagh.
“As a Chamber, we have regularly carried the concerns of our members to the council in relation to rates, town centre parking or traffic and issues and there is no action taken.
“It is frustrating when we are told that the council are examining these things, yet nothing is done.
“A plan is needed now because what we don’t want is a situation where Omagh becomes a ghost town due to the lack of planning and development. That is especially crucial in relation to the many vacant sites likely to become available to re-development in the next few years.
“The spending on the £450,000 Revitalisation Scheme for Campsie is to be welcomed. But there are so many other schemes in the Omagh area which require support.
“Chief among them are going to be the prime town centre locations being vacated by the seven post-primary schools which are relocating to the Strule Campus when it is completed.”
But the council this week said that the location of projects ‘is not a significant factor’ as it is responsible for the delivery of services on a district-wide basis.
“Capital Projects are normally based on strategies for provision of services and facilities which are determined following feasibility analysis, review of existing facilities and assessment of need,” said a spokesperson.
“Other factors include statutory approvals, alternative provision and ongoing support arrangements are taken into consideration in the development of business cases to support projects.
“External funding opportunities may also present scope to support development of capital projects in relation to tourism and other initiatives.”
The Council’s capital investment programme lists its key priorities, which include work on a Public Realm Scheme in Enniskillen, the re-development of the Marble Arts Caves and a £1.2 million scheme at the Enniskillen Workhouse.
Both the Omagh and Fermanagh areas will benefit from a £6.6 million investment in the upgrading of recycling facilities, and work on pitches, parks and countryside walkways and waste infrastructure.
Barry McElduff, the Sinn Fein leader on the council, said there was a need for ‘significant re-balancing’ when it comes to prioritising capital schemes.
“There is an issue here and there is no escaping and no denying the fact that the Council is being forced to deal with a history of under-investment by the legacy council in respect of facilities.
“Dare I say, by comparison, that the legacy Omagh District Council invested properly and in a more sustainable, phased manner, in a more managed way, in Omagh Leisure Complex and the Strule Arts Centre.
“In some projects, the pace has been too slow and there has been a lack of progress. This needs to change.”