Search on for marina developer

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THE creation of marina facilities at Sandy Bay is one step closer to reality this week, after a majority on Larne Council expressed their desire to actively promote a development at the site.

As reported in the Larne Times, the local authority recently commissioned a team of consultants to carry out a feasibility study into the potential for marina provision in the borough.

They came up with a list of potential sites, including Curran Point, Magheramorne, Howden’s Quay, Sandy Bay and an extension at the current council-owned marina in Glenarm.

The consultants ranked Sandy Bay the least suitable site for a marina, but at the council’s monthly meeting on Monday night it was resolved to forge ahead with plans to promote the development of marina facilities on the site by advertising lands and seeking expressions of interest from potential developers.

Members had received an update on the current position in relation to each of the sites identified in the consultants’ study.

Following further investigations by council officers into the sites, only Sandy Bay and Curran Point were deemed to be of interest to potential developers. However, councillors were also informed it was not possible to assess the level of genuine interest at Curran Point, as the council does not own any land at this location and would be unable to instigate development there.

That effectively left Sandy Bay as the only potential site, and members were reminded that a developer - Larne Marina Company - has already expressed an interest in the creation of a marina at this site.

But at Monday’s meeting, Councillor Brian Dunn urged his colleagues not to act against the advice of the consultants. “We cannot commission a report and then go against its recommendations for political reasons or any other reason,” he added.

“Let us look at what the report says – Sandy Bay is the least suitable site in Larne Borough for a marina. Does that mean because it is available we should use it? It is a bit like going shopping and even though the shop hasn’t got what you want, you are determined to buy something. If there is no suitable site available, we should accept the experts’ advice.

“I propose we regret that none of the most suitable sites are available and we resolve not to pursue this any further.”

However, Alderman Roy Beggs put forward a counter-proposal which stated: “The council promote the development of a marina along the seafront at the promenade/Chaine Memorial Road, which provides safe mooring all year round, by advertising lands in council ownership and seek expressions of interest from potential developers. This process will require more work in terms of consideration of legal issues in respect of land ownership, Crown Estates etc, and would be best completed once the requirements of potential developers have been identified.”

Councillor Mark McKinty said it remained to be seen whether Larne needed a marina or not, and questioned whether a marina at Sandy Bay would act as a stimulus for investment in the town. He told members he had canvassed the opinion of a number of local people and almost all of them were against the idea of a marina at Sandy Bay. And he felt that marina developments in Carrickfergus and Bangor had done little to boost the local economy in those towns.

But Councillor Martin Wilson felt the council should be doing all it can to attract investors into Larne.

He added: “Now more than ever we should support investors who are willing to come to our town. We as a council are expected to show a degree of leadership and I feel that Ald Beggs’s proposal is the one which shows the necessary leadership.”

Cllr Wilson also made a remark directed at members of the Larne Promenade Action Group (LPAG), which has lobbied against the creation of a marina at Sandy Bay since it was first mooted in 1999.

LPAG member John Anderson was present in the chamber when Cllr Wilson said: “The people who led the campaign against a marina at the promenade are comfortable middle aged or retired men with no families to feed, who don’t see the bigger picture. How much have they achieved and what have they to offer the borough? They don’t have to help bring about employment opportunities for local people, but we as a council do and we also need to create an atmosphere for investors.”

A recorded vote was held on Cllr Dunn’s proposal, which was defeated by 10 votes to five. A second recorded vote was then held on Ald Beggs’s proposal, which was carried by the same margin.

Conflicting views on decision - page 10