Local councillors have expressed their disappointment that the Gobbins Cliff Path opening date has been postponed for the fourth time this year.
The flagship tourist attraction had been due to open to the public on July 9, with an official opening in August.
Now it has emerged that the public opening has been pushed back even further, with the attraction not due to open until mid-August this year.
Concerns had previously been raised over a report made to Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s Economic Growth and Development Committee that the facility would only be “90 per cent” ready on July 9, with the final suspension bridge, cliff-top path and associated interpretation points incomplete for the public opening.
At that stage, Chief Executive of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council Anne Donaghy had said she didn’t see the remaining work as an issue in stopping the opening.
However, the public opening date is now set to be delayed by a further month after it was revealed that there is no emergency evacuation plan in place for the site, which it is hoped will attract thousands of visitors per year.
Councillor Gordon Lyons, who sits on the Gobbins Steering Group, said he was “extremely disappointed” and “shocked” that the opening date had been pushed back again.
“An assessment was carried out last week and it was realised that work couldn’t be completed by July 9,” he revealed.
“There needs to be a multi-agency emergency evacuation plan for the site put in place with the emergency services in case there are any problems.
“It will open when the health and safety considerations are met but that is outside of our control.
“I am disappointed as I would have loved to have had such a major tourist attraction open for the entirety of the summer.
“When it opens in August that will be it completed and the final two bridges will be sorted out so that the facility will be open completely.
“At least there will be a bedding in period and we can build up to next summer.
“It’s very frustrating; we just want to open and we want to get it right,” he concluded.
Meanwhile, Councillor Stephen Nicholl, who had previously opposed the incomplete opening of The Gobbins on July 9, welcomed the delay as “for the best.”
“One of the difficulties of working on a major scheme is that it can’t be rushed,” he stated.
“The information coming back and forward from various committees and steering groups was changing week by week and wasn’t clear. The reason for further delay is that the emergency services need to do a full evacuation plan.
“If someone was injured there it would take more than two ambulance men to get them back up the route and there needs to be an emergency plan got together for when the tourists come.
“There have been many issues, delays and hold-ups and getting everything in place is a complex process. This is where we are and we have to work with it.
“I’m disappointed we are not going to get the summer season but I’m happier knowing that it will be the full visitor experience.
“It is better for the long term legacy that people get to see the full facility when it’s open.”
A spokesperson for Mid and East Antrim Borough Council stated: “Health and Safety and well-being of the public is of paramount importance to Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and particularly important for the Gobbins which is such a dramatic natural attraction.
“As part of the arrangements for the final opening of the Gobbins Council continue to work with the emergency services to ensure that all necessary safety arrangements are in place.
“Council continue to look forward to the opening to the public of this significant tourist attraction during August. We feel proud and positive it will be available to the public for many years to come.”