‘Gobbins touristsmay bypass Larne town centre’

Councillor Gordon Lyons.  INLT 12-681-CON
Councillor Gordon Lyons. INLT 12-681-CON

Tourists visiting The Gobbins Coastal Path could overlook Larne town centre unless facilities are developed, according to a local councillor.

Coast Road Councillor Gordon Lyons is a member of MEA Borough Council’s planning committee, which recently proposed that council formulate a new MEA “area plan” to stimulate the area’s socio-economic future.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Lyons told The Times: “We have a good tourist product in The Gobbins and the Antrim Coast Road, but it could be that people pass through the town altogether.

“We want people to stay to eat and shop here, so it needs to develop to make people want to stop off.

“People will have to pass through the town to get to the Gobbins so how do we create spaces where people stop?”

On April 1, planning powers transferred from the DOE to the new supercouncils, and Cllr Lyons says that a number of strategies can be taken to attract people to the town centre.

He explained: “Things like transport are one of the key areas, as is the general townscape.

“We need to make sure that we have the facilities that people need such as places to park for buses coming through, where they can stop for a comfort break and a tea or coffee.

“We should be helping with planning and transport and also speaking to travel companies, travel guides and other agencies.

“At the minute we have tourism on the Coast Road and The Gobbins will provide an extra attraction, but we have a lot of tourists bypassing the whole area.

“Hopefully we will attract people and encourage them to extend the time they spend here.”

Cllr Lyons believes that the transfer of planning powers has better equipped local councillors to tackle the challenges facing their areas.

He explained: “With the area plan which we are formulating we may be looking at the next ten to 15 years and we want to have a plan that is achievable, deliverable and realistic.

“After 40 years we now have local elected representatives making decisions on planning. We have the tools now with more responsibility and significant powers to bring change.

“People can have confidence that their elected representatives will have a greater say on planning issues.”