Promenade Action Group says: ‘We haven’t gone away’

THE Larne Promenade Action Group (LPAG) has stressed that its objectives are the same today as they were more than 12 years ago when the proposal for a marina was first mooted.

With proposals for a marina village once again hitting the headlines, LPAG member John Anderson said this week that there are some who need reminded of the origins and purposes of the group.

“LPAG came into being in 1999 when it became clear that a few Larne councillors and a developer (then as now) wished to ‘develop’ Larne Promenade from an unspoilt seaside walk into an urban street cut off from the sea by a marina basin. With statements urging councillors to book their retirement apartments at the Promenade in advance, it was obvious that those who value the Promenade as an unspoilt walk needed to act,” he said.

“In the early days, when the developer and political push was at its strongest, a representative group of about a dozen people met every week. Each gave of their time freely and when legal advice was needed, contributions came from members. Public support was clear when over 2,000 people went on record – unlike various anonymous correspondents – as individual objectors to the property-speculative planning application for the Promenade.

“Those names remain on the public record and represent the group’s support base together with a growing number of new supporters who value the quality of the Promenade experience.

“The purpose and focus of LPAG remains exactly as it was from its inception – that is, to protect the Promenade from predatory property speculation, and to preserve its quality experience for the Larne public and visitors. The continued and inexplicable refusal of Larne Council to perform its statutory duty to act on public requests to assert the Promenade public right of way remains a concern.

“For the record, LPAG has never sought to pass comment on whether or not Larne needs a marina,” he said.

Mr Anderson confirmed that the group has now received a copy of the report by consultant Scott Wilson into the potential for marina and watersports provision in the borough and other material from Larne Council, but has requested some additional documentation and information.

Mr Anderson said LPAG would like to thank the councillors who spoke in support of the retention of the Promenade as an unspoilt walk and who voted against Councillor McKeen’s motion “in the face of some vociferous attempts to question the group’s right to access information, despite clear justification under the Freedom of Information Act 2000”.

“Having had a chance to study the information, the group is concerned that a small number of councillors, despite repeatedly hearing clear and well-researched advice from the consultants (paid for at the public’s expense) to the effect that the Promenade is the least viable place in the borough for a marina, choose to ignore that advice and promote a motion which overturns a professional opinion and thus has the potential to put the whole council in jeopardy, yet again, regarding its procedures.

“It is noted also with concern that Larne Council do not routinely follow the example of other councils in calling for a declaration of interests at the commencement of each meeting,” he added.

Mr Anderson said that the LPAG noted figures released to the press last week by Carrickfergus Council showing that Carrick marina has made an average loss of over £275,000 during each of the past three years. He claimed it reflects the position of other similar marina facilities in Northern Ireland.

“The Larne Marina Company has again put forward extravagant and unsubstantiated claims regarding the viability of their plans for Larne Promenade, with mention of £40m capital investment. Now, in a time of recession we challenge the company to reveal where this projected investment is to come from.

“As the consultant’s report illustrates, there are a number of alternative sites where funds could be sunk in a marina project. The Howden’s site, for instance, is now on the market, and is of a scale to absorb the amount of funding the Larne Marina Company claims to have available.

“In conclusion, it goes without saying that LPAG will continue to pursue its core aim of retaining and securing the Promenade in perpetuity as an unspoilt coastal walk accessible to all,” said Mr Anderson.