Council is asked to help source grant aid for world cycle centre

LAFARGE has asked Larne Borough Council to help realise exciting plans for a world class cycling centre at Magheramorne.

The local authority has granted approval for its chief executive, Geraldine McGahey, to open negotiations with the cement company to work on an agreement aimed at accessing European funding for the development.

Lafarge has outline planning permission for its comprehensive Magheramorne Reinvented proposals for the regeneration of the 153-hectare quarry and cement works site, which closed in 2001. The World Cycling centre - featuring seven challenging downhill courses using the contours of the abandoned quarry face - is one of a range of proposals which also include a diving centre, film and TV studios, a steam engine museum and a nature conservation area.

The company is forgoing taking profit from the site, with the recreation, educational and leisure facilities to be paid for through grants and construction of 450 eco-friendly dwellings in a proposed harbour village beside Larne Lough.

While it is committed to leaving “a lasting beneficial legacy for the people of East Antrim who served the cement works so well over many years”, Lafarge admits it has little or no expertise in leisure provision, residential development, or sourcing grant aid.

With the help of the council it is hoped to make a successful application to draw down INTERREG IVA funding that would make the dream of the cycle centre a reality.

The outline plans feature five miles of downhill courses in total, with an arena at the finish, along with support facilities like a café, changing rooms, hire shop and overnight accommodation.

There may also be a three-mile cross-country circuit.

“Leading mountain bike course designers have impressed upon us the enormity of the potential for mountain biking in the quarry,” said Lafarge when submitting its planning application.

“Designed properly, Magheramorne would be on the mountain biking World Cup circuit. At the same time, the variety of opportunities for different courses would allow for beginners,” the company added.