An ex-councillor wants parts of the Gobbins path which don’t pose a rockfall risk to reopen, likening its closure to a “nanny state” act.
Former Alliance councillor John Mathews, who was a member of the Gobbins steering group on Larne Borough Council, says that the prolonged closure of the flagship tourist attraction has turned it into “a joke” and that the council needs to “get creative” to reopen parts of the path to visitors.
He is now calling for an inquiry into the situation at the £7.5 million pound facility, which has only been accessible to the public for six of the 12 months since it first opened.
“I think the council is being overly cautious regarding the Gobbins,” said Mr Mathews, whose home overlooks the Gobbins path.
In an updated statement, Mid and East Antrim council said that the viewing platform and access path, up to the entrance of the cliff path walk at Wise’s Eye, remain open.
A spokesperson encouraged visitors to go to the visitor centre, which is also still open, for more information.
However, Mr Mathews said he felt council should do “something more creative which would foster goodwill for when the path is ready to fully reopen.”
“At the minute the visitor centre is still open, but what use is that if you can’t see the attraction?” he asked.
“A guest house owner I spoke to had foreign visitors who wanted to see The Gobbins and it was closed; this is really bad for tourism.
“We have spent all this money and I think there should be an inquiry into how this has come about. Parts of the cliff path could be assessed, a fortune has been spent sending people to Milwaukee to attract foreign visitors.
The council is being overly cautious. We are becoming a serious nanny state.”
The council opened the Gobbins last August, but closed it after five months when a landslip caused by heavy rainfall caused damage to parts of the access path. The path reopened over the 2016 May Day weekend, but closed again on June 20 for essential maintenance to prevent rock falls. It remains closed.
The council spokesperson added: “Due to the number of locations highlighted along the path with increased rock fall and the need to uphold the health and safety of staff and visitors, the judgement was taken to close the path and allow for a wider survey of the cliff face to take place”.
“Scaling along with an independent assessment by a geologist is taking place. This is quite a complicated and specialist process, which involved the geologist accessing the rock face on rope, in order to get a more detailed view of the situation. Given the specialist nature of this work, means it can be timely. As part of the initial results of this survey, it has not been possible to open the path until more scaling has been completed.”
The spokesperson said council is “working towards reopening The Gobbins as soon as it is deemed safe to do so.”