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Councillor questions location of £1.7million tourist attraction

Despite seconding a proposal to approve Council expenditure of more than £150,000 on a sculpture in the Sperrins, a Dungannon councillor has questioned the location of the proposed tourist attraction.

Speaking at a meeting of Mid Ulster District Council’s development committee, Councillor Walter Cuddy said he was of the opinion Mid Ulster’s sculpture should be located at a gateway town to the Sperrins like Cookstown or Draperstown, rather than Davagh Forest.

The sculpture will form part of the Sperrins Sculpture Trail and will see Council spend £142,234.34 over the next two financial years and an additional £13,050 on professional fees on the project.

The project is a joint tourism initiative developed by Derry City and Strabane District Council, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council and Mid Ulster District Council.

The entire cost of the project is £1,774,581.30.

The entrance of Davagh Forest was selected as the preferred site for the sculpture in Mid Ulster.

The other two installation will be located at the summit of Mullaghcarn Forest and the former Sperrins Heritage Centre.

The cost for Mid Ulster’s element of the overall project is £581,987.33.

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs’ rural tourism scheme is providing funding of £426,702.99 for this element with Council’s contribution making up the rest.

A proposal to approve the expenditure and ensure costs are funded from the relevant capital project budget was put forward by Councillor Sean Clarke who said he was “delighted” to see the project advancing.

He also asked if there were any concepts of the sculpture but was advised these will only be produced once the artists are appointed.

Councillor Walter Cuddy seconded the proposal to accept the recommendation but expressed his belief there were better spots to locate the sculpture.

“I have nothing against this project, it is good to see all the funding and working with the other councils so it is ticking all my boxes,” said Councillor Cuddy.

“The only thing it is, to me, if you want to encourage people to go into the Sperrins you don’t put the sculpture in the middle you put it in the gateway.

“Where is the gateway to the Sperrins from the east? Is it Cookstown or Draperstown. It should be somewhere at the edge and near a busy road to encourage people to let their curiosity get the better of them.”

Councillor Cuddy continued: “Of course, that is only my own opinion and if the best location for the sculpture has been identified as being in Davagh Forest that is fair enough.

“I just feel it should have been at the gateway into the Sperrins but I am happy enough to second the whole process.

“It is good to see money coming into an area of outstanding natural beauty.”

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