LARNE councillors have agreed terms of reference for an advertisement inviting developers to submit expressions of interest in building a marina at the Promenade.
Members met “in camera” at the end of a development committee meeting last week, when they received copies of the development brief, which they had to return at the end as the information was deemed to be commercially sensitive.
Minutes published this week reveal that, to begin with, it was recommended that “given the scale of the proposal”, applicants should have a minimum of 12 weeks to draw up submissions. On the proposal of Ald Roy Beggs, seconded by Cllr Drew Niblock, it was agreed that ”the time for submission of expressions of interest be extended to 16 weeks”.
On the suggestion of Cllr John Mathews, it was also agreed to include notification that a bond may be a requirement. However, Cllr Brian Dunn said he still had reservations about the whole process, which apparently led to “lengthy discussion”.
The minutes report that chief executive Geraldine McGahey “assured the committee that each submission would have to be treated fairly and equally” and that “advice would have to be taken on how any scoring would work and Council would have to be robust and open in that regard”. In 2008, the council was criticised by the NI Ombudsman for “maladministration” in handling a competition for developers for the Glenarm regeneration project. After a subsequent review of all such competitions run by the local authority it was decided that the marina scheme - originally awarded to Larne Marina Consortium in 1999 after being advertised - should be scrapped and the process started over again.
Minutes indicate that on the proposal of Ald Beggs, seconded by Cllr Gregg McKeen, it was resolved that Council “proceed to advertise for expressions of interest for a marina and associated facilities development at the Promenade/Chaine Memorial, Larne, with the amendments agreed”.
Larne Marina Consortium’s application for a Sandy Bay marina, which is opposed by objctors led by Larne Promenada Action Group, has been in the planning system for nearly 15 years.