After 18 years...could Coleraine finally have a museum?

ALL but two councillors have voted to resubmit a revised Peace III bid for the Coleraine Museum project.

At a meeting in Coleraine Borough Council last Tuesday, members were

asked to decide on whether or not they wanted to proceed with the

project which has already cost over 500,000.

Most were in favour of the proposed museum, which, incredibly, has been

in the pipeline for some 18 years. A museum for the area was first

proposed in 1992, with the preferred site being the current Dunnes site, which was then the Harbour car park.

After many more years and reports it was agreed that the site of the

museum should be the Market Yard off New Market Street. In 1999 a

sub-committee was established and the following year a community consultation was carried out.

Now as we come to the end of 2010, the project hasn't really progressed

passed the talking stage. Planning permission has been granted but funding from Peace III was turned down earlier this year.

At last Tuesday meeting councillors had to decide whether to re-apply for Peace III funding, or terminate the project.

DUP councillor Timothy Deans put forward a strong argument against

the project. He said:" We have all been lobbied by the Town Centre Partnership and the Chamber of Commerce, but I know that many Chamber members have issues with this project.

"Back in 2008, the project became a regional museum project. I agree

that Coleraine needs a museum, but this project is not right for this

borough. It is not going to regenerate the town centre.

"This will be a high-tech building, there will be high maintenance costs, and we will be left to foot the bill.

"We have already cut services to bring the rates down, then we go

ahead with this project. We could have a museum for less cost. Fast forward ten years, and it will be like Waterworld, it will cost us a

fortune to run."

However councillor Deans' DUP colleague Maurice Bradley was in favour

of the project going ahead. "We started this debate back in

1992, it's decision time now. The people of Coleraine want this, we

have a rich history. Coleraine has so much going for it, a museum would

sell it."

Councillor Bradley proposed that Council should try to get Peace III

funding and withdraw a previous funding application through the Tourist

Board.

His proposal was seconded by councillor Cole.

UUP councillor David McClarty said to proceed as a 'no brainer'.

"This project will be a catalyst for the regeneration of the town centre," he said. "We all know that at 5.30pm the town centre dies. We should support this vision, if we don't we will leave the town centre to be compared to the cemetery."

UUP alderman Toye Black also supported the proposal: "I have been in

this Council for almost 30 years and this was talked about then. It's a

disgrace we haven't got anywhere. We may never get this opportunity

again."

SDLP alderman Maura Hickey, also supported the proposal, saying: "This

should have happened many years ago. It would bring investment into

an area that is run down."

UUP councillor, David Harding, added: "Coleraine deserves this. I do

think it's the wrong building in the wrong place, however I do support

the proposal."

Opposing the project, DUP councillor, Adrian McQuillan, said: "My heart

is telling me to support this, but my head is telling me to wise up.

"We have already spent over 500,000 to date, this could become

a real headache when it comes to the rates."

On being put to a vote, councillor Bradley's proposal was carried by 16

votes to two. DUP councillors Fielding and Deans voted against.