Catholic Church hits back in dispute with councillors over land

Newcastle Central Promenade, towards the Mourne mountains.
Newcastle Central Promenade, towards the Mourne mountains.

The Roman Catholic Church has denied allegations it acted in bad faith over the sale of an old school site in Newcastle to Down District Council.

According to a cross-party group of councillors, the local parish has broken a promise to sell the site of the former St Mary’s Primary School in the seaside town.

The councillors have accused the Church of continuing to solicit bids “even while contracts were being drawn up” and said they “feel betrayed”.

However, the Church has hit back, saying: “Following the decline of a private treaty sale in 2012 by Down District Council, the parish Trustees placed the former St Mary’s Girls Primary School site at Shanslieve Drive in Newcastle on the public market on 26 March 2013.

“During the subsequent period offers were received from a number of parties, including Down District Council.”

In a statement, the Church added: “The parish Trustees are legally bound to act in the best interests of the parish and to consider all offers made through the public market process. The Trustees of the Parish remain open to consideration of Down District Council’s offer in regard to the sale of this site.”