A paper setting out a major regeneration programme for Portrush ahead of the Open Golf Championship is to be discussed soon in the Assembly, the Minister for Social Development Mervyn Storey has confirmed.
In an Assembly question by DUP MLA Adrian McQuillan about whether funding was to be released for the improvement works, Mr Storey sais he believed the “Open Championship offers a major opportunity to sustainably develop the tourism economy of Portrush and the North Coast in a way that will bring substantial benefits not only to the area but to Northern Ireland as a whole.”
And it’s believed that an official announcement on the first tranche of money for Portrush - some £27 million - will be made soon.
Mr Storey commented: “Before moving forward with a major regeneration programme for Portrush I need to seek the Executives agreement on how this programme of works should be delivered and how it should be funded.
”A paper setting out the programme of regeneration works for Portrush and a proposal for its delivery has been issued to Executive colleagues and I hope that it can be discussed and a way forward agreed at the earliest opportunity.
“I have recently announced funding of £1.5m for a public realm scheme in Portstewart.”
In response to an earlier question by Independent MLA, Claire Sugden, on the proposed programme of works, Mr Storey revealed that these would include:
○ A new combined bus and rail facility;
○ Redevelopment of Portrush harbour;
○ Public Realm Improvements;
○ Improvements to parking and transportation;
○ Redevelopment of the recreation grounds;
○ An Urban Development Grant and Revitalisation Programme.
Speaking about the economic opportunities the Open would bring, Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment Jonathan Bell, said: “Securing The Open Championship is a magnificent achievement. It is a key part of Tourism NI’s events strategy and is crucial to consolidating our efforts to grow visitor numbers and visitor spend.
“The Open Championship is expected to attract 200,000 spectators over the competition days. With the estimated spend per golf tourist at £385 per day, or £2,500 per trip, hosting major golf events plays a key role in realising our ambitious plans to grow tourism in Northern Ireland to a £1 billion industry by 2020.
“The potential economic return of £70 million makes The Open coming to Portrush in 2019 a success story not just for golf and golfing fans but our entire economy.
“Hosting The Open Championship will provide the opportunity to raise the profile of Northern Ireland as a golf destination and showcase it to a wider global audience.
“I commend the R&A for their confidence and commitment to Northern Ireland. I have no doubt the 2019 Open at Royal Portrush, which will be broadcast to half a billion people worldwide, will be a stunning sporting success.”