Craigavon is a town in County Armagh, Northern Ireland, consisting mainly of residential development. It was designated as a New Town in 1965 and named after James Craig (1871–1940), the first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, whose title was Viscount Craigavon. It was designed as a linear city incorporating Portadown and Lurgan, with two new sectors, Brownlow and Mandeville, in between with a further two proposed for the long term. It is not far from Lough Neagh. Craigavon Urban Area (including Portadown, Lurgan and Bleary) had a population of 57,685 people in the 2001 Census.

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 developmentEdit

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 city between neighbouring towns of Lurgan and Portadown and thus create a large urban/suburban conurbation. 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 in the northwest would have been a more appropriate choice, but was excluded by the Stormont-based government. Some believe this was to ensure that the new town was predominantly Protestant. For example, 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.

Craigavon was designed as a very child-friendly environment, with numerous children's parks dotted throughout, a lot of green space in the housing estates, and safe paths to cycle on. The new town was also provided with many local amenities, with a leisure centre, shopping centre, civic centre, artificial lakes, playing fields, and even a petting zoo and gardens at Tannaghmore.


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 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 almost wholly Catholic or wholly 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.

However after many years of development, and increasing house prices closer to Belfast, Craigavon is now taking off. Many of the older housing estates have been demolished, improving the general tone of the area. The introduction of new estates have brought many new people into the area, and the expansion of the Craigavon Shopping Centre (now renamed the Rushmere Shopping Centre) has made it a major shopping destination.

2001 CensusEdit

Craigavon Urban Area (including Bleary) is classified as a Large Town by the NI Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) (ie. with population between 18,000 and 75,000 people). On Census day (29 April 2001) there were 57,685 people living in Craigavon. Of these:

  • 24.5% were aged under 16 years and 17.4% were aged 60 and over.
  • 48.8% of the population were male and 51.2% were female.
  • 28.4% were from a Catholic background and 69.1% were from a Protestant background.
  • 4.0% of people aged 16–74 were unemployed.


Craigavon was provided with a number of schools, with capacity for a number of children which never materialised.

  • Brownlow Integrated College was one of the first integrated high schools in Northern Ireland, and is well served by its progressive regime
  • Drumgor Primary School, controlled primary school
  • Lismore Comprehensive School serves the Roman Catholic community, and is notable for the quality of its academic results.
  • Moyallon Primary School
  • St. Anthony's Primary School, maintained by the Roman Catholic Church
  • St. Brendan's Primary School, maintained by the Roman Catholic Church
  • St. Patrick's Primary School
  • Tullygally Pimary School, controlled primary school
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