Council chiefs clash over Gobbins project

(file photo) The tubular bridge section of the Gobbins cliff path is lowered into place.  INLT 44-676-CON

(file photo) The tubular bridge section of the Gobbins cliff path is lowered into place. INLT 44-676-CON

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The chief executives of Larne Borough Council and the new super council have clashed over plans to transfer ownership of the Gobbins cliff path.

The multi- million pound attraction – which is expected to be finished in late March – will be the jewel in local authority’s crown.

And, with Larne Council set to merge with its counterparts in Carrick and Ballymena to form the new Mid and East Antrim District Council in April, preparations are underway to transfer the Gobbins project into the hand of the new organisation.

But chief executive of Mid and East Antrim, Anne Donaghy, has expressed concerns over the operational hand over of the scheme.

At the latest meeting of the Gobbins steering group, members were presented with a report providing an update on various aspects of the project.

The report stated that funding for the cliff-top path element of the scheme was being “front loaded” to ensure the money was spent before the end of March.

Ms Donaghy she was “uneasy” regarding this issue and stressed that she should have been consulted “as a matter of courtesy”.

However, according to minutes of the meeting, Mrs McGahey felt Ms Donaghy had “misunderstood” the report.

The official record states: “No work would be paid for in advance and a specific budget would be transferred to Mid and East Antrim District Council to cover the remaining contract.”

Ms Donaghy emphasised the need for her to be involved in the project.

She asked for assurance on this from Mrs McGahey, and called on Larne Council to provide her with an operational plan before the hand over.

Mrs McGahey vowed there would be “no additional time frame or costs” and that the project would be completed and signed off by March 31.

Ms Donaghy asked that this be put in writing, and Mrs McGahey agreed saying it “would not be a problem”.