Scenic caravan park ‘should close’ – McKee

Major changes must be made at Browns Bay caravan park if it is to remain sustainable, Larne Borough Council has been warned.

Consultancy firm Place Solutions has been tasked with producing a feasibility study on the future use of the council-run facility at Islandmagee.

And consultant Sharon Scott has made it clear that “doing nothing is not an option” for the local authority.

At the latest monthly meeting of Larne Council, she provided a detailed breakdown of the park’s performance over the past two years and made suggestions as to how it could be improved.

Mrs Scott told elected members that the facility cost ratepayers £20,000 to run in 2011; the bulk of which was made up of salaries for staff.

In 2012, that figure rose to £28,000, as more staff and resources had been pumped into the facility.

The income from the park rose from £9,000 in 2010, to £15,000 last year, but in terms of income versus cost, the park is losing money.

Mrs Scott added the park was too small to be maintained in its current form and said the number of caravan berths would have to be at least doubled from 24 to 48.

The consultant also said that a potential refurbishment of the caravan park could cost about £380,000, which she said was a conservative estimate.

The council was told it may want to consider leasing the caravan park out to a private operator, or even consider shutting the facility down altogether.

Cllr Bobby McKee pointed out that the Curran Road caravan park had been leased out to a private operator and had been “very successful”.

Ald Roy Beggs added: “I don’t think the council should continue to pour good money down the drain.

“We need to focus on the private sector.”

However, Ald Jack McKee said he would be in favour of closing the park and added: “Do we really want to keep this burden round our necks?”

It was resolved that the matter would come back before council for further discussion in October, after the park’s tourist season has ended.