Glenarm camper vans ‘spike’ led to Covid spread fears, council told

Fifty-five camper vans packed into a carpark on the Antrim Coast on a weekend night last month causing alarm among villagers, Mid and East Antrim councillors have been told.

Friday, 18th September 2020, 1:25 pm
Glenarm Marina Pic by Paul Faith

Members of the borough council’s Direct Services Committee heard that this “spike” led to complaints from Glenarm residents amid fears over the spread of Covid.

The council also received complaints from residents over congestion and the carparks at Glenarm Marina being “unavailable” to locals or visitors.

In response, control measures were put in place by the local authority with the carparks manned three evenings during mid-August, limiting numbers to 28, 31 and 19 that weekend.

‘Track and Trace’ forms were handed out to camper van occupants. The same arrangement has continued every weekend since.

A report to committee members said there was a “genuine concern from local residents” that the numbers using the site may “contribute to spreading the virus within the local community and within the camper van users due to the amount of vans cramped into a small space”.

As a result, the council has considered putting in place height restriction barriers as a deterrent at the carpark closest to Glenarm Rowing Club and in front of the Eglinton Works to limit use to cars and light vehicles.

Speaking at a remote meeting of the Direct Services Committee, on Tuesday evening, Coast Road Ulster Unionist Councillor Maureen Morrow said she had received “a lot of complaints from concerned residents” and indicated that the council had been keeping a record of camper van use in case of a Covid outbreak.

She outlined concerns about the proposed location of the barriers and suggested that the harbour master continues to keep a record of camper vans in the marina carpark because of the ongoing risk of Covid.

Sinn Fein Coast Road Cllr James McKeown commented there are camper vans “in every lay-by” in the area.

Braid DUP Cllr  Beth Adger MBE remarked: “These people are bringing money into the area. I think it is great that people are wanting to come into Glenarm to stay. I would not be putting them out. We are trying to bring holidaymakers into the area.

Ballymena TUV Cllr Matthew Armstrong commented: “Neighbouring councils can’t build holiday parks quickly enough. It is money for old rope.”

He suggested that is something that should be encouraged rather than putting barriers in the way.

Bannside DUP councillor Tommy Nicholl MBE noted: “If we are not going to allow visitors in this area why are we spending so much money  trying to improve the facilities and the environment around those areas.

“I am very much in favour of bringing Glenarm up to speed and encourage people to come and spent money locally. If we are saying we do not want them, what sort of a message are we sending out.” Read hereHe asked council officers to have a “genuine look at a way forward” and come back with recommendations at a future meeting.

“No way will I be in favour of driving anybody away from a beautiful place that Glenarm or Carnlough is.”

Alliance Coast Road Alderman Gerardine Mulvenna pointed out that during that particular weekend, there were “so many people” and no ‘Track and Trace’ in place.

She indicated that her main concern had been the pandemic and added that people in Glenarm were not “feeling safe”.

“The whole idea is that it was trying to manage it and control it and to make it as safe as possible, trying to not spread the coronavirus.”

Some parts of Mid and East Antrim had fresh restrictions imposed this week in response to a rise in cases.

Coast Road DUP Cllr Angela Smyth suggested that councillors should not take a vote on the barrier that evening and to “think what is best going forward”.

Cllr Morrow added that she does not feel the barrier needs to be put on at this time and is not worth the expenditure although she considers it to be  “something we need to be thinking about.”

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter.

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