Members of the Portrush Maritime Group told a Coleraine Borough Council committee last week that they could make Portrush the ‘Kinsale of the North’ if their plans to transform the old Lifeboat House and Portandhu Harbour were to go ahead.
The group was invited to speak at the meeting to give their views on the Lansdowne Masterplan, which was approved by councillors last month.
The masterplan will see the regeneration of the Lansdowne area of the town, in line with the Portrush Regeneration Strategy.
Through the masterplan, expressions of interest are being sought for the use of the Lifeboat House.
Portrush Maritime Group members had raised concerns that the masterplan had not addressed the need for a connection between the old lifeboat house and the neighbouring harbour at Portandhu.
In their presentation, Council members heard about the historical links between the lifeboat house and the people of Portrush, and the economic potential that the lifeboat house would have as a centre for water based activities.
The Maritime group would like to see the shelter at Lansdowne being converted to include showers, changing rooms, meeting rooms, a social area, and a museum.
Mr Ivan Campbell, who spoke on behalf of the Group, told councillors that they had the backing of the Royal Yachting Association, and that they could bring regattas to the area if the facilities were in place.
Mr Campbell outlined that the harbour was ‘in bad condition’ and that work including dredging, repairs to the slipway and the docking and landing facilities would allow sports like kayaking, diving and fishing to take place at the east bay.
He pointed out that if there was a docking area at Portandhu cruise ships would be able to dock in all weathers. He told the meeting that a number of ships could not let passengers disembark at Portrush Harbour during the summer months due to the weather.
He pointed out that the lifeboat house had been located at Lansdowne due to the calmer seas at the east bay.
“We want to bring a different type of tourism to Portrush, and expand on the tourism offering that is already there,” said Mr Campbell.
Portrush councillor Norman Hillis described the harbour at Portandhu as an ‘untapped resource’, but questioned the cost of the work.
He said: “This would require some kind of marine engineering, so I am sure it would be costly.”
Responding, Mr Campbell said that a previous scheme the group had looked at was costing in the region of £2.5 million, but that estimates had not been sought for the work this time around.
Council’s Corporate Director of Leisure and Development, Richard Baker told the meeting that the repairs to the harbour would depend on the final outcome, but he added that the dredging of the harbour at Portandhu would cost in the region of £150,000.
Concluding Alan Leighton of the Maritime Group asked members if they wanted to let the asset crumble or, he asked ‘do we do something to make the east bay the Kinsale of the North’.
He told the meeting that the county Cork village made their income off ‘people who wanted to be on the sea’
Committee chairman, Maura Hickey thanked the group for their presentation and reassured them that there would be some kind of linkage between the Harbour and the lifeboat house.