More than £27 million of government money is on its way to Portrush, The Coleraine Times can exclusively reveal.
The Assembly funds, from the Department of Social Development, will see regeneration projects taking place across the seaside town in the run up to The Open Golf championships, in 2019.
The funding, first promised back in 2015, will come in two tranches - £17 million for projects that could be completed prior to The Open, and a second tranche of £10 million, which will be used for the redevelopment of the harbour area.
The money for the harbour redevelopment will not be released to 2020/21.
Announcing details of the funding, DSD Minister Lord Morrow also revealed that his department has committed a further £500,000 for work to commence on design work on the upgrading of Portrush train station, and other public realm projects.
Commenting on the station upgrade, Minister Morrow told The Coleraine Times: “These projects are time critical, and this work is essential if the capital build elements are to be completed before the Open Championship in 2019.”
In a statement to this newspaper, the DSD Minister spoke about the delay in announcing funding.
“In March 2015 and again in November 2015 my predecessor, Minister Storey, wrote to Executive colleagues to seek the Executive’s agreement to the way forward with the regeneration of Portrush in the run up to the Open Championship returning to Royal Portrush Golf Club in 2019.
“The programme of regeneration set out the activities needed to exploit the huge economic return that the open will bring not only to Portrush but also to the wider Northern Ireland economy.
“The Open Championship is one of the largest annual global sporting events with an estimated audience of over half a billion people.
“The event itself is also expected to attract 200,000 spectators and hosting major golf events plays a key role in realising ambitious Programme for Government plans to grow tourism in Northern Ireland to a £1 billion industry by 2020.”
The Minister went on: “There has been no reduction in the overall proposed level of investment.
“To date, Causeway Coast and Glens Council has advised that they do not have the financial resources to commit towards this programme, and a contribution from Council has not been factored into the proposals.”
Mr Morrow said that other Departments have been asked to allocate funding towards the regeneration projects.
“Given the delay in securing the overall funding package my Department has agreed to commit funding £0.5 million from its 2016/17 capital budget to allow some initial design work to commence on the train station and public realm projects.
“These projects are time critical and this work is essential if the capital build elements are to be completed before the Open Championship in 2019.”
DUP councillor George Duddy has urged the Department to ‘get to work quickly’.
“This funding is in great need if we are to showcase this area propertly during the golf championships - however, we are on a very tight timeframe.
“I would urge central Government to get to work on these projects quickly there are so many time constraints,” he said.