Cycle centre plan moves up a gear at quarry site

A computer-generated image of Lafarge Tarmac's proposed development at Magheramorne Quarry. INLT-14-704-con
A computer-generated image of Lafarge Tarmac's proposed development at Magheramorne Quarry. INLT-14-704-con

Planners have recommended the approval of detailed plans for a long-awaited world-class cycling centre at the Magheramorne Quarry site.

The reserved matters application will be recommended for approval at today’s (Thursday) meeting of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s planning committee.

It has always been designed to work around and with the Game of Thrones project

Tarmac spokesman

The most recent application for the 153-hectare quarry site, owned by Tarmac (formerly Lafarge Tarmac), is the first phase of a previously-approved regeneration scheme known as Magheramorne reinvented.

This would see the construction of a cycling centre comprising 17 kilometers of downhill and cross country

trails, four-cross track, skills area, finish arena, uplift track, car and coach parking, viewing platforms, landscaping and ancillary works.

In 2009, outline planning permission was also granted for a mixed-use harbour village containing 450 dwellings, as well as a attractions including a diving centre, heritage railway and visitor centre, ecology/art park, bird watching and interpretation centre, and film studios.

A tourist information centre, public house, restaurants, retail units, community centre, boating facilities, industrial archaeology park and accommodation were also given outline permission at the time.

However, in 2013 the Northern Ireland Environment Agency’s (NIEA) Natural Heritage/Environment Division raised concerns over the proposed development’s potential impact on protected species, plants and on Larne Lough’s designation as an Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI), Special Protected Area (SPA) and RAMSAR site. NIEA also expressed concern at the route of the proposed cycling trails through mature woodland, the removal of woodland and the potential impact on badger setts. The revised proposal amends the route of the trails to avoid badger setts and seeks to minimise disturbance to mature trees and vegetation.

The report notes there may be general disturbance caused by noise from people on the trails, by the additional traffic generated and movements in and around the site, but these “should not have any greater impact than any of the former quarry operations”. It claims that the Shore Road access point can handle the additional vehicular traffic.

Planners received one letter of objection, which raised concerns that the cycling centre would displace the income from filming at the site, and described the cycling centre as “economically unviable and unsustainable”.

However, planners considered these were “subjective viewpoints”.

A Tarmac spokesman commented: “This is a reserved matters application seeking permission for the detail of the cycling centre and trails.

“It has always been designed to work around and with the Game of Thrones project.”