Northern Ireland heritage centre saved after local consortium acquires site - Museums Association

Northern Ireland heritage centre saved after local consortium acquires site

Omagh District Council has agreed the sale of its closed Ulster History Park to a private business on terms that …
Paul Gosling
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Omagh District Council has agreed the sale of its closed Ulster History Park to a private business on terms that will allow for its reopening as a heritage centre. Contracts are expected to be signed by the end of October and the asset transfer should be in place by the end of the year.

The Ulster History Park, which lies in the Sperrin mountains, was offered for sale when the council accepted there was no prospect of stemming the annual £500,000 losses and decided it could not afford this level of ongoing subsidy. While there was interest in the site from the US, the purchaser is an Omagh-based consortium, which is paying the full £700,000 asking price.

Property consultant Rory McConnell, who handled the sale for the council, said it was a good deal for Omagh: 'It was very widely marketed and we were delighted to identify this consortium because not only are they paying £700,000, but they are keeping the history park open and extending it. They are using the park's cottages for a completely new concept of a village for respite care for people all over the province [of Northern Ireland].

'The history park is protected,' McConnell continued. 'The proposal included a very detailed explanation of what they intended to do, running to several pages. The intention is that the whole history park will be open to the public with no admission charge. It's a heck of a proposal.'

The successful bidder is Sperrin Care and Leisure, a consortium of Omagh business people with backgrounds in the care and education sectors. The site has self-catering cottages and a caravan and camping park, as well as the history park featuring outdoor and indoor displays telling the story of Northern Ireland from the Stone Age to the 17th century Plantation period.

Ann McCrystall, a director of the consortium, said: 'We will keep the history park for schools and so on. We will develop the other part of the site into a care village for holistic healing.' The consortium accepts it will not get a big income from the history park, but it will be used to market the chalets to overseas visitors. McCrystall said: 'When we can attract tourists for other things, the park will be profitable. It would probably not work on its own.'

An Omagh council statement said: 'Sperrin Care and Leisure aims to maintain the ethos of the area in which the facilities are located, as an area of outstanding natural beauty, and proposes to provide facilities which will add value to the area.'

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