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13th December 2000
Minutes of Special Meeting of Strabane District Council held in the Council Chamber, Council Offices, 47 Derry Road, Strabane on Wednesday 13 December 2000 at 7.30 pm
Present:- In the Chair:- Councillors Mrs A Bell & I Barr Other Members:- Councillors T McBride, J McNulty, E Mullen, J O’Kane, E Turner MBE Total = 7 In Attendance:- Messrs L Crossey, G Louis, J Martin & T Murphy & Ms H Osborn – WELB Messrs W Hazlett, C Spence & Ms K McGirr – Robinson & McIlwaine Chartered Architects Clerk & Chief Executive, Acting Head of Recreation, Committee Clerk
New Library and Community Facility, Strabane
The Vice Chairperson of the Council, Councillor Mrs Bell, welcomed everyone to the meeting. She explained that the Chairman of the Council and the Chief Executive had been delayed at another engagement and hoped to join the meeting later. She then invited Mr Martin, Chief Executive of the WELB to address the meeting.
Mr Martin introduced his team members and outlined their respective roles in the project. He also outlined the role of Robinson & McIlwaine Chartered Architects in the development of the project. He spoke enthusiastically of having been closely involved in this flagship project. Ms Osborn, who had recently taken up the position of Head of Libraries and Information, remarked that this exciting project combined a library with a range of other facilities and was indeed a landmark project within the UK.
Mr Spence introduced his team members and outlined their input into the project. With the aid of a multi-media presentation the team demonstrated the location of the new facility within the Strabane 2000 Strategy plan. They illustrated the initial conceptual view; the master plan; the design model; ground floor and first floor plans; view from Abercorn Square; approach along Railway Street; view of reception area and central court; elevations to Railway Street, Canal Street and Abercorn Square; and a computer generated design model. It was noted that the design model was on display in the centre area of the Council Chamber for Members’ perusal.
Mr Spence explained that a number of other Consultants were also involved in this exciting project and team effort was an essential element.
As Chairman of Strabane 2000, Councillor Mullen commended the content of the presentation which was extremely informative. He remarked that this was a historical occasion in NI and commended the strong commitment of the WELB officials and the input of the Consultants. He also commended the Board Members of Strabane 2000 for their input. In response to a query by Councillor Mullen, it was confirmed that the facility catered for the visually impaired. Councillor O’Kane commended the presentations and the respective officials for their input and also welcomed the advancement of the project. He queried the type of roofing used and it was confirmed that it was designed to modern specifications and the edge of the roof was equally prominent. Councillor O’Kane queried whether offices such as the Health & Social Services building in Strabane could be accommodated within the overall site and Mr Spence explained that this was a phased development of a larger site with a lot of potential.
Councillor Barr welcomed the officials and their presentations. With regard to the “window wall” he queried the steps taken to protect it without detriment to the remainder of the building. He spoke of the vandalism to property in the town and the associated costs to Council. He referred to the drawings and queried whether a flag pole was included in the proposals and, if so, voiced a preference for it not to be included. In response, Mr Spence explained that Councillor Barr was in fact referring to the flue from the boiler house and it would be designed as attractively as possible. He further explained that the brief had addressed the problem of vandalism and shutters would be brought down at night, if necessary.
Councillor Turner commended the officials and the presentations. He pointed out that he had been involved in discussions re. library provision for a number of years for Strabane and Castlederg. He remarked that this facility was a pump-priming exercise for the site and was to be welcomed.
Councillor McBride welcomed the presentations and remarked that the presence of the senior officials demonstrated their commitment to the project. He spoke of the youthful population in the District Council area and the long term impact which the facility would have for the town and district.
Councillor McNulty welcomed the officials and the presentations. He remarked that this was a historic occasion and queried proposed usage of the community facility and anticipated capacity. In response, Mr Spence advised that this would facilitate workshops, rehearsal rooms, arts and crafts and broadcasting facilities. The Library equated to two-thirds provision with the community facility one-third. The rooms were approx. 40/50 m˛ and were designed to have maximum flexibility of use.
The Chairperson invited the Chief Executive to address the meeting and at the outset he apologised for his late arrival. He welcomed the progression of the project which was an outstanding example of partnership at work. He remarked that the partnership between the WELB, Library Service, architectural team, the Council and Strabane Community Development Trust had been crucial in the successful development of the project. He commended the Acting Head of Recreation (AHR) for her major input and expressed the hope that the project would move forward speedily.
Mr Martin expressed appreciation for the welcome which the project and design had received. He also welcomed the heartening comments of former and present Members on the Board. He reiterated the WELB’s commitment and remarked that this project had the same potential as the Waterfront development. Councillor Turner enquired if “Bruce’s site” was still in the ownership of the WELB and it was confirmed that it would be sold by public auction.
Councillor Mullen paid tribute to the AHR, the Chief Recreation Officer and the Chief Executive for their input and commended the success of the partnership approach adopted. The Chairperson commended all those involved.
It was agreed that the meeting adjourn for a tea break and to enable Members to peruse the design model on display and to facilitate discussion with the respective officials.
The meeting reconvened at 8.55 pm. Councillor Mullen advised that the Chairperson and himself unfortunately had to leave the meeting to attend another function. Councillor Mullen proposed, seconded by Councillor McNulty, that Councillor Barr, Chairman of the Economic Development Committee, chair the meeting. This was agreed. On behalf of the Council, the Chairperson welcomed Mr Lewis, Haley Sharpe Consultants, to the meeting, and apologised for any inconvenience.
Councillor Barr took the Chair and apologised for the small number of Members now present. He explained that Christmas was an exceptionally busy period for Councillors as they were invited to a number of events and expressed the hope that there would be better attendance at a future meeting when Mr Lewis would be addressing Council in the New Year. This was noted.
Consultation on Arts Strategy
The Chairman welcomed Mr Lewis and invited him to make his presentation. At the outset, the AHR explained that this was an opportune stage to move forward with the development of the new strategy. She remarked that the advent of the new Library facility had given a new impetus for community arts development and explained that as there were a number of key players engaged in arts activity, it was essential to maximise the resources so as to deliver a co-ordinated approach.
Mr Lewis explained that the focus of the Arts Development Plan was to facilitate use of the new building and the development of arts activities throughout the Strabane district. It was aimed at increasing interest in terms of participation and audience development and to enable the community to participate in activities and also to support performances. The need for the review was stimulated by the expiry of the existing arts development strategy and it examined ways of ensuring that the facilities would be developed and used over the next few years. The arts audit identified a range of community groups who were involved in the arts and enabled identification of key issues in supporting and developing those activities as well as those for the mainstream art activities. The consultation phase involved the various organisations in identifying their needs so as to link into the Council’s activities and encourage co-ordination of same.
A number of key considerations were identified as follows:-
develop, build and foster further activity among those groups in arts activity; develop new activities; response to key issues; work with schools to develop education and activities within school hours and also activities outside the curriculum; community spaces – development of youth arts; the broadcasting studio and the flexible spaces could be geared towards young people; groups could network with each other; emphasis on outreach provision; pilot projects to be identified with specific art forms; encourage, develop and sustain existing initiatives; introduce partnership arrangements on an ongoing basis and to define clear lines of communication and responsibility; avoid duplication and fragmentation of resources; skills development - funding sources to be related to art or schools; showcasing could be used as a catalyst to bring in expertise and give performances to stimulate interest in the local community; marketing and promotion was essential.
Mr Lewis stated that arts development required resources if it were to adequately address needs and develop capacity within the community. There was a need to both identify revenue costs and any potential funding sources. Mr Lewis then invited Members to put forward their comments.
Councillor McBride welcomed Mr Lewis and commended his presentation. He supported the need to encourage people to develop art themselves. He remarked that youth arts and strong links with schools were vital to the long term value of the arts. He expressed the hope that Strabane would be recognised as an important arts centre in the future and commented that the Council was fully supportive.
Councillor McNulty welcomed the emphasis placed on the community and the need for partnership and effective two-way communication. He spoke of the potential of young people and suggested that the new facility would be a focal point. He commended Mr Lewis’ presentation and looked forward to the new strategy in the New Year.
The AHR reminded Members that Mr Lewis had been available to receive comments from individuals/groups etc. and this would continue. She further explained that arts provision was subject to Best Value and Mr Lewis would be incorporating this within the review. This was welcomed. The Chairman, on behalf of the Council, once again thanked Mr Lewis for attending the meeting and for his informative presentation and wished him a safe journey home and a Happy Christmas.
Launch of Strabane/Lifford Road Sculptures
The AHR referred to the impending launch of the sculptures at Strabane/Lifford Road. She explained that in the event that a VIP or celebrity was not available, a press launch could proceed on Tuesday 19 December at 1.00 pm with transport available from the Council Offices to the site. In the event that a VIP was available, the launch could be transferred to Friday 22 December. The Chief Executive further explained that difficulty may be experienced in providing adequate staff cover to manage the event on Friday and the impact of the associated traffic disruption to the businesses in the town would have to be taken into consideration. Additionally he indicated that it may also be necessary to hold the launch in the Fir Trees Hotel which would incur expense. The AHR further advised that in the event that Michael Flatley was attending, a walk-about could be arranged in the town centre with an opportunity for autograph signing and to meet members of the various Dance Schools. Councillors Barr and Turner spoke of the need for publicity and for a celebrity, such as Michael Flatley, to officiate at the launch. The AHR reminded Members that this was a Millennium project and it was imperative that it was launched in the Millennium year.
It was agreed, on the proposal of Councillor McBride, seconded by Councillor Turner, to proceed with the launch as outlined above and that the necessary hospitality be provided.
The meeting closed at 9.40 pm.
DATED this 13th day of DECEMBER 2000
SIGNED:- _____________________________ Clerk and Chief Executive
DATED this 9th day of JANUARY 2001
SIGNED:- ______________________________ Chairman of the Council