New group to fight for future of Ardglass

New group to fight for future of Ardglass

11 October 2017

A NEW development group has been formed in Ardglass to upgrade the harbour as part of a plan to secure the future of the fishing industry and help kick-start the economic regeneration of the village.

Ardglass Harbour Developments is keen to see work starting to deepen the harbour to accommodate larger herring and mackerel vessels and to upgrade berthing facilities for local trawlers.

The group is keen to relocate trawlers to the an area known locally as the Saw Pit at the harbour which it wants to see deepened so vessels can put to sea when they want and not have to wait on the right tidal conditions.

The provision of a dedicated repair facility for vessels is also a key aim for the new group as currently trawler skippers have to take their boats to Kilkeel or Portavogie which reduces the time they can spend at sea.

Another key plank of the group’s vision for the future is converting property at the harbour to provide a new hub offering essential office and training space. It is also hoped to provide a storage and work area and space for the community to use.

Ardglass fish producer, Comgall Milligan, said the new group has been established in response to calls from the fishing sector to provide 21st century harbour facilities. He said the group wants to spearhead “vital changes” to the harbour infrastructure to ensure jobs for decades to come.

“Our main issue is that we need the harbour deepened in places as the larger herring and mackerel boats are finding it difficult to berth and have to go to Belfast to unload their catch into tanker lorries. This is a huge extra cost and creates a carbon footprint and in the long-term is not very sustainable,” said Mr Milligan.

“After lengthy discussions with local stakeholders, the group is speaking to a number of agencies to see what we can do to secure the future for our harbour. We would be happy to accommodate all but the very large pelagic vessels which just would be too big even for a deepened harbour.”

Mr Milligan said the group hopes the government will buy into its ideas, explaining it has already invested in fish processing factories and boats “but now needs to go one step further before the local fishing industry becomes unsustainable.”

Explaining the background to plans to convert property at the harbour, Mr Milligan said there is a need for space to accommodate office and training facilities as part of a new on-shore hub.

He continued: “The ancillary service sector needs to grow in Ardglass and small units need to be made available for the likes of engineers, marine electricians and painters etcetera. Ardglass vessels lose quite a lot of time whilst waiting on other repair slips and it is time the village had its own facility and for our local economy to flourish.

“We have seen a decline in pubs and shops over recent years and we need to get our multiplier effect working at local level properly. As this work in progress develops, we will be consulting with the people in the fishing community and the fishing sector seeking their views and ideas.”

Mr Milligan said while there is a long road ahead, the new harbour development group is determined to make a difference and secure new social, economic and environmental opportunities for the Ardglass fishing community.

He also highlighted the need for a fisheries working group which included councillors from the former Down, Newry and Mourne and Ards councils and fishing industry representatives to be resurrected.

“This was quite a useful body in representing the business of the three fishing ports along the Down coast. It would now probably have to be a tri-fishing port working group given that the former councils are no more and have merged following the reorganisation of local government,” continued Mr Milligan. “This group previously was a platform for government ministers and others to quickly interface with the fishing industry on vital issues and played an important role.”

Joining Mr Milligan on the new Ardglass harbour development group are other directors Dick James, Jim Masson, company secretary, councillor Dermot Curran, Philip Milligan, Basil Wills, Simon Wills, David Zych and Marianne Masson, treasurer.