THE potential for future development of marina and water sports facilities in the borough has been highlighted in a new feasibility study.
Co Down-based firm Countryside Consultancy was hired by Larne Council to determine the benefits that could be derived from a variety of water-based leisure activities, and to make recommendations for where these facilities would be best located.
After gathering feedback from a range of consultees, including Larne Marina Company, council harbourmasters, the Port of Larne and Larne Promenade Action Group, a detailed report has been compiled and presented to the local authority along with several suggestions for the best way forward.
It was determined that there was the potential for two or three water sport bases in the borough, which could turn over £125,000 each and employ a total of 15 staff seasonally.
The report also proposed extending Glenarm Marina by 24 berths and shifting the focus to visitors. It also hinted at the potential for a marina development in Larne or the Larne Lough area to service local demand, and stated there were “three or four” possible site options.
The consultants found there was no further space for development in Carnlough, but stated the village could host an activity centre and boat trips to the Causeway Coast. An activity centre was also recommendated for Carnfunnock Country Park.
It was suggested that a summer water activity scheme could be operated at Sandy Bay using the Leisure Centre as a base, with another base on council-owned land at Browns Bay.
Further recommendations were made to repair the harbour at Ballylumford to use as a short term base for boat trips to the Gobbins, and to dredge the side harbour at Portmuck to allow the maximum stay possible for this excursion.
At Monday’s meeting of the development committee in Smiley Buildings, consultant Judith Annett told elected representatives that the best location for water sports activities was in sheltered, clean waters such as Browns Bay, Carnfunnock, Glenarm and Carnlough.
She added that facilities should ideally be sited where there is already a good footfall and a range of other attractions.
Larne councillors thanked the consultants for the “comprehensive” report and spoke of their excitement at the findings of the study.
Indepedent Cllr Roy Craig said: “You have given us a lot to consider. It is clear you have put a lot of work into this study and highlighted areas that have never been considered by council before.”
DUP representative Gregg McKeen said report provided “a very good starting point for moving forward”.
He added: “There is great potential for the development of water sports in the Larne borough and you have certainly given us food for thought.
“I would be keen to discuss this further and hope to see you back here in the near future.”
Ulster Unionist member Maureen Morrow welcomed the proposed extension of Glenarm harbour and said it could encourage more tourists to stop in the village.
Sinn Fein councillor Oliver McMullan said he was “very familiar” with the process of marina procurement, having sat on Moyle District Council during the creation of Ballycastle Marina.
“This is the start of a long journey, and the mistake we made in Ballycastle was not talking to the boat owners.
“That would have saved us a lot of trouble later on,” he added.
Chief executive Geraldine McGahey said: “The general consensus seems to be that water sport facilities need to be developed, it is just a question of how.”
She asked the consultants to take on board all comments and submit a full report to council in the coming weeks to allow councillors to make an “informed decision”.
“I would like members to be able to discuss this further at November’s meeting of the development committee,” she concluded.