The Minister for Social Development has confirmed that there are firm plans for a major regeneration of Portrush before it hosts The Open.
Mervyn Storey says that “major infrastructure” projects are needed for and must be delivered to prepare the town for the hosting of the championships.
In an Assembly question, tabled by Coleraine MLA, Claire Sugden, Mr Storey was asked for his assessment of the Joint Ministerial Initiative, the Portrush Regeneration Strategy on the Western Peninsula and to detail how indoor leisure facilities could be provided in the resort.
He replied: “My Department has taken the lead in a number of regeneration initiatives in Portrush over the past few years and has provided investment to allow Coleraine Borough Council to complete several public realm improvement schemes.
“The announcement that Royal Portrush Golf club will host the Open Championship as early as 2019 brings with it huge opportunities not only for Portrush but also for the wider Northern Ireland economy.
“To make the most of these opportunities however it is recognised that a number of major infrastructure projects would need to be delivered. This includes projects like the development of the harbour, the re-location of the train station and potentially the development of a four star hotel.
“To help progress this programme of works a Ministerial sub-group has been formed to include those Departments who would have input into the decision making process in the above projects.
“ The Ministerial sub-group has representation from DSD, DETI, DRD and DOE. My assessment is that the arrangements have delivered a number of key improvements in Portrush over the past five years and offer an effective mechanism to take forward otherprioposals to regenerate the resort.”
“Neither the Ministerial Sub-Group collectively nor my Department individually have a role in theprovision of indoor leisure facilities in Portrush. This is a responsibility which falls to the local Council.”
In a further question by Ms Sugden, the Minister said the Portrush Regeneration Programme Board had been established in October 2013 to oversee the strategic implementation of Portrush Regeneration Strategy initiatives. It has met four times since.
He added: “The meeting held on 10 November 2014 considered an initial draft of the terms of reference for a study to examine the options around a proposal for the redevelopment of Portrush Harbour and the content of a paper on the way forward for the regeneration of Portrush which I propose to issue to the Executive in the near future.”