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Exciting Plans for Steeple Site

31 August 2016

The Council has revealed an exciting plan to protect and enhance one of Antrim’s most recognisable and historic sites.  Since the Council Offices moved to Stiles Way. Council has been determined to ensure that any plans for the site would balance both the historical significance and local needs.

The new concept plan seeks to ‘showcase’ the Round Tower as a unique feature in the Borough and one of only a small number intact in Ireland.  At present the Tower is not readily accessible to visitors and there are no linked features and services. The proposed connection to the Steeple House and the parkland could create a ‘special’ attraction and generate interest in the monastic history of the site and the wider Antrim town area.
The new proposal differs from previous plans in that it will retain the Steeple House and Stable Block as an integrated unit reflecting its past layout. This change is a key aspect of the concept plan as it impacts on the way in which the remainder of the site will be developed. The stable block to the rear of the house creates an opportunity for small business units, community enterprises or flexible community space.

Importantly the new scheme considers the context of the site in relation to other nearby facilities including Parkhall Community Centre. It is proposed that the redeveloped Steeple House should become a multi-purpose community building and consideration given to the development of the Parkhall Community Centre site for housing. All activities currently operating from Parkhall Community Centre could be accommodated within the new facility.  Consultation with staff and users of the Centre will take place in due course.

One of the key features of the new scheme, which has not been exploited to date, is the ability of this park to link communities and facilities together, particularly; nearby housing areas, Antrim Grammar and Parkhall College and main transport/pedestrian routes.   Opening up access points, creating pedestrian and cycle routes and improving the lighting and signage in the park will encourage a wide range of people to make use of and benefit from the park.

To further enhance the offer at the Steeple site and working in partnership with Antrim Grammar and Parkhall College it is proposed to develop a 3g pitch on the Antrim Grammar site. This would be a school and community shared facility catering for the sports needs of Antrim town. A mini business case is currently being developed to ascertain if external funding may be available for the project.
It is proposed to offset the estimated total project cost of £6.7 million through the sale of land and where possible securing external funding.  Outline planning permission was secured by the former Antrim Borough Council for two parcels of land.   The opportunity exists to accommodate both social and private housing as a mixed use development on this land.  External sources of funding for the scheme are also being explored.
It is proposed to deliver the scheme in 2 phases.  The estimated cost of Phase 1 is approximately £4.3m, (financed by the Council in conjunction with other funding sources).  The Council has made indicative provision of £3m in its capital estimates for this purpose.
In summarising the decisions taken at the Council Meeting a Council spokesperson commented:

‘In approving the Steeple Concept Plan at the Council Meeting on 30 August, Members have agreed that Phase 1 of the project,at an estimated cost of £4.32 million, be implemented which includes the refurbishment of the Steeple House, creation of a 3G pitch at Antrim Grammar School subject to approval of the business case, as well as the creation of car parking and appropriate entrances.  These works will be supported through the existing provision of £3 million in the capital estimates and the sale of land as outlined in the report.

To support Phase 1 and the realisation of the wider project outline planning permission will be sought for the housing areas proposed.

The implementation of new concept plan heralds an exciting time for Antrim and one which we believe can produce great benefits for the local community and visitors alike.‘