Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has earmarked £1.3 million for work to get underway on reopening Blackhead Path near Whitehead.
Survey work is almost complete to assess the total repair works needed. Council has been working with geologists and the Health and Safety Executive since its inception in 2015 to monitor subsidence and start repairs.
The walkway connecting Whitehead and Islandmagee has been plagued with issues since the early 1990s and was closed on and off by the former Carrickfergus Borough Council.
Commenting as the local authority stressed its commitment to the project, the Mayor, Cllr Paul Reid said, “This path is a fantastic tourism asset for the entire borough, but it is also an extremely important attraction for local people with many fond memories. This is why it’s so important that we get it re-opened as soon as possible and have set aside over £1million to do so.”
Blackhead path has had severe subsidence issues and rock fall risks for decades. A health and safety report presented to Carrickfergus Council forced its closure before the formation of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.
Thousands of people have supported an online petition for the latter to fully re-open one of the area’s most important tourist “assets”.
Anne Donaghy, council chief executive, said, “We’ve brought in surveyors and to draw up plans for the new designs and repairs. Drone footage has been gathered and this will be shared on the council website to keep our citizens up to date with developments. These results are due in a few weeks, but it’s thought that three areas of the path have now fallen into disrepair because of the historic lack of investment and poor maintenance.
“Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and local councillors are committed to this project. However we are clear that we need to do it right. We will know the full results of the latest survey shortly, but it looks like the subsidence issues, after decades of being left without repair, have created further problems around the path, walkway and lighthouse.
“This is something we need to make sure we fix properly and fully to ensure the longevity of this invaluable asset and that it is sustainable. We don’t want to find ourselves fixing one area, for another to need closed off in the future. This will take time as this needs to be done properly and that’s what council is ensuring happens so local people and visitors can enjoy the path for generations to come.”
Fences and signs warning people of the risks have been put up, but some people have ignored them. Fence posts and locks have been removed with metal saws and council is urging people of the serious risks of using the path in its current state.
Mayor Paul Reid added, “We understand this is a hugely popular with the local community, dog walkers and tourists, but the safety of users of the path is of utmost importance. We are urging citizens to please take the advice on the many signs and fences that have been put up, as by not doing so, they are putting their lives at risk. Damage to these fences is also costing money, which could be put into reopening the path as quickly as possible.”
Work timescales will be dependent on weather conditions, but council says it is moving this project forward and it’s hoped work will get underway in the New Year. It’s estimated the repairs may cost in the region of £2 million.