Marina objectors seek recordings of Larne Council discussions

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OBJECTORS want copies of taped council discussions relating to the controversial proposal for a multi-million pounds marina at Larne Promenade.

Larne Promenade Action Group (LPAG) is also seeking sight of a design brief which is to be sent out to interested developers.

The Freedom of Information requests come on the heels of the local authority recently agreeing to advertise for expressions of interest from developers who might take on the venture - as exclusively reported by the Larne Times.

It is the latest chapter in a saga which began in 1998, when a group calling itself Larne Marina Consortium (LMC) first approached the council with the concept of a marina at Sandy Bay, which would entail associated residential and commercial development of council-owned land along the shore and, most controversially, the Promenade.

LMC was appointed preferred developer at the end of a council-run, publicly advertised competition for potential schemes - a process which has since been deemed flawed. In the meantime, two major Article 31 planning applications submitted by LMC have failed at planning.

For the past 14 years the marina issue - which must surely have taken up more debating time at Smiley Buildings than any other - has been opposed vehemently by LPAG, which at one time had leading member John Anderson on the council, after he won a by-election on an anti-marina ticket.

With Environment Minister Alex Attwood seeking answers last year as to why the Larne marina proposal has been on the books of Planning NI longer than any other development, the council revisited the question of potential marina provision last year and plumped for Sandy Bay as the favoured site, on the grounds that there were no plans for marina development at any of the other potential sites in the area. The decision went against the advice of the council’s consultants, who had scored the promenade location as the least suitable.

Yet again, the council and LPAG are at loggerheads and the objectors’ FOI request is the latest salvo in the lomg-running war of attrition. Already, LPAG has complained that the recordings have not been supplied “in spite of numerous requests”. LPAG has accused the local authority of “obfuscation and obstruction” for the purpose of “denying public access to a true verbatim account of two open sessions of Council”.

LPAG has now referred the matter to the information commissioner, with the group’s contention that the council has had adequate chance to review and reconsider the requests.

Racking up the pressure, the promenaders have lodged a further FOI request with the council, this time for a recording of an “in camera” committee debate and recommendation, later ratified by the full council on February 4, to advertise for the construction of a marina and associated facilities at Larne Promenade.

In addition, LPAG told the council: “We require a copy of the tender application pack and design brief, relating to publicly owned land at Larne Promenade, that potential developers will receive.”