Council unveils ambitious plans for forest park

Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council is pushing ahead with ambitious plans for future developments at Hillsborough Forest.

Councillor Uel Mackin, Chairman of the council's Development Committee and Dr Theresa Donaldson, Chief Executive of Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council, promote the new concept plans to improve the visitor experience at Hillsborough Forest.

The local authority recently announced the completion of its Concept Plan for the local beauty spot, which includes proposals for the creation of a new visitor and education centre, play areas, enhanced walking routes and public art trails.

The multi-million pound project is now progressing following a lengthy consultation process to discuss ways of improving the visitor experience at the forest park, on the outskirts of Hillsborough village.

Following the completion of the consultations, a Concept Plan incorporating the thoughts and ideas of local residents and other stakeholders was drawn up.

Speaking about the plans for the site, Councillor Uel Mackin, Chairman of the council’s Development Committee, said: “The council is delighted with the level of engagement it received on its proposals from residents, local community groups, regular users of the forest and statutory agencies. I would like to pay particular thanks to the Hillsborough Steering and Communications Group for its role in leading the concept design stage.

“As a progressive council we are committed to community planning and ensuring that our area is appealing to both residents and visitors alike. This planned development represents a significant investment in this charming village. A key aim of the plan is to provide a world class, innovative, natural recreational area, making best use and access to the forest in its entirety and build on this already very popular family and visitor destination.”

He added: “The first phase will include an exciting new Visitor & Education Centre, additional car parking, play areas, public art trails, interpretive signage and pathway improvements. These plans will be further scrutinised at the next stage of development following a public tender to secure the necessary architectural services, and more consultations.”

Dr Theresa Donaldson, Chief Executive of Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council, commented: “This project is a prime example of successful community engagement to secure the development of a local area to meet the needs of the local residents, community groups and businesses. The council, in partnership with statutory bodies such as the Forest Service and the South Eastern Health Trust, will work together to revitalise the forest park.

“This significant development is part of the council’s overall Hillsborough Tourism Masterplan, which supports the development of Hillsborough as a key visitor destination through the delivery of a number of tourism focused development initiatives to enhance the profile of Hillsborough, both regionally and further afield.

“It is also envisaged that this will be a very welcome and complementary boost to the area in support of the £16million investment announced by Historic Royal Palaces in respect of Hillsborough Castle and Gardens with a projected uplift of 200,000 visitors by 2019.”

The council has said it is looking forward to the Hillsborough Forest Concept Plan being further developed and the project delivering a new and exciting experience for visitors and locals alike.