Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Craigavon (Creag Abhann in Irish) is a mainly residential development in Northern Ireland, not far from Lough Neagh, between the towns of Portadown (Port an Dúnain) and Lurgan (An Lorgain). It contains the headquarters of Craigavon Borough Council. The borough as a whole has a population of about 80,000. Together with part of the district of Banbridge, the borough forms the Upper Bann constituency for elections to the Westminster Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly.
Purpose of the development
Originally, Craigavon was planned as a 'new city' on a par with the new towns that were being built in England in the 1960s. The plan was to build a large development between the neighbouring towns of Lurgan and Portadown and thus create a large urban/suburban connurbation. It was hoped that this would encourage people to move out of the crowded streets of Belfast which was attracting the large majority of development in the region. Craigavon was intended to ensure a more even distribution of development across Northern Ireland. Residents in Belfast were offered cash incentives to move to Craigavon. Critics argue that Derry/Londonderry in the North West would have been a more appropriate choice, but was excluded by the Stormont-based government for sectarian reasons. The terms of reference given to the author of the Matthews Report in 1963 stated that any development plan for Northern Ireland must concentrate development East of the River Bann (where there was a protestant majority) so as 'not to upset denominational ratios.'
Some of the most striking features of the development include the separation of motor vehicles from pedestrians and cyclists who have their own dedicated path network, use of roundabouts instead of traffic lights at junctions, situation of self-contained shopping centres in each housing area on an evenly-distributed and planned basis, and the total separation of industrial land-use from all other uses. All estates were built with security concerns in mind, with one entry/exit point.
Problems began to come to light when it emerged that some large-scale housing areas had been built with materials and techniques that had not been fully tested, with the result that insulation, sound-proofing and durability were not adequate. The area's main employer, Goodyear, had a large fan-belt factory in the Silverwood industrial estate, and at the time it was Europe's largest factory. The plant failed to make money on a consistent basis, and had to close. It also emerged that the population projections for Northern Ireland upon which the project was based were wildly inaccurate, with the result that the planned development was overkill. This was compounded by the outbreak of the 'Troubles' in the late 1960s, with the result that investment into Northern Ireland dried up and emigration from Northern Ireland increased. Consequently around 50% of what was planned was never built, and of what was built, nearly half of that had to be demolished after years of lying empty and derelict. It was not uncommon to drive through Craigavon in the early 1980s and see entire housing estates and acres of housing abandoned. The area designated as Craigavon 'city centre', roughly mid-point between Lurgan and Portadown, for much of this time contained the municipal authority, the court buildings, a shopping mall, and little else. Surrounded by greenfield land it became a source of much derision even from locals. Sectarian tension during this time also resulted in many estates becoming virtually all Catholic or all Protestant.
Critics of single use zoning would find much to criticise in Craigavon where this type of urban planning has been used extensively. Only in the older towns is traditional town planning more prevalent.
The identity of a new city never really caught on. The name 'Craigavon' is today used by locals to refer to the rump of the housing development between Lurgan and Portadown, but the names of the old towns stubbornly live on and so does their identity.
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