Councillors defer decision on discount for marina berth-holders

A decision on a reduction in fees for berth-holders in Mid and East Antrim marinas has been deferred until next month.

Thursday, 11th March 2021, 4:29 pm
Carnlough Harbour. INLT 00-000-PSB

Members of the borough council’s Direct Services Committee failed to agree on a lockdown discount when they met remotely on Tuesday evening.

Berthing fees at marinas in Mid and East Antrim bring in almost £0.5m for the borough council annually, a report to the Direct Services Committee has stated.

The council operates marina and harbour facilities in Carrickfergus, Whitehead, Glenarm, Carnlough and Portglenone.

A discount of 15 per cent in fees had been recommended by a council officer for the current lockdown despite a 30 per cent reduction during lockdown last year.

However, on this occasion, berth-holders have been able to access their boats.

Carrickfergus Ulster Unionist Councillor Robin Stewart asked why people would be charged fees of 85 per cent “to go down to see their boat once a week”.

He stated that the precedent had already been set by giving a 30 per cent discount.

“What are you going to do on it? It is not a bath tub. It is not for sitting in a harbour or marina. If you can’t go out, what use is it?”

DUP Councillor Cheryl Johnston said that she had been contacted by berth-holders in Carrickfergus who had been asking when they would be permitted to set sail.

She added that they are currently paying full price but can’t utilise their boats.

The council’s Operations Director Philip Thompson said that the boats are being “stored”, security is operational and maintenance work is taking place.

Coast Road Ulster Unionist Councillor Maureen Morrow asked if there is a limit to how much the council can “claim back” from the Department for Communities.

Mr Thompson said that the council would have to show that the claim is “reasonable”.

He pointed out that during the first lockdown, berth-holders were not able to access their boats.

Knockagh Alliance councillor Alderman Noel Williams said that he agreed with the director adding that he believed the proposed reduction to be “reasonable”.

Braid Councillor Beth Adger asked how often boats would go out in the winter.

“I do not see any sailing boats out anywhere in winter time. If they are getting 15 per cent for somebody looking after their boat, I think that’s not bad.

“If we start this, people will be looking money off their caravans and everything. I think we should stick to 15 per cent.”

Cllr Stewart commented: “It’s not all about sailing. You do not use it more in summer than winter if you use it for fishing purposes.”

Bannside DUP councillor Alderman Tommy Nicholl  said: “We are the custodians of the ratepayer. We have to use, if we have any, business acumen to run this service.

“I am sure they are getting value for money as regards what this council is doing. We can’t provide a service for nothing.”

Knockagh DUP Councillor Marc Collins proposed the issue be returned to next month’s meeting of the Direct Services Committee.

Ballymena TUV Councillor Matthew Armstrong stated that if the council has the full information from Stormont, they would be able to “make a more informed decision”.

Ballymena Independent Councillor James Henry noted that the council has agreed the dredging of three harbours at a cost of £1.9m.

“I think they are getting a fair rub of the green.”

Coast Road Sinn Fein Councillor James McKeown pointed out that “money from the Executive is not going to last forever”.

by Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter