Review to determine future needs of Ardglass harbour

Review to determine future needs of Ardglass harbour

6 February 2019

A MAJOR review of the future needs of Ardglass harbour must be completed as soon as possible, according to a local politician.

The review of the local port and those in neighbouring Kilkeel and Portavogie is being spearheaded by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, but is not expected to be completed until the end of the year.

Councillor Dermot Curran is keen for the in-depth exercise to be completed sooner, highlighting the need for the long-term futures of the respective ports to be spelt out clearly.

His appeal comes after Dr Denis McMahon, the Permanent Secretary at the government department, confirmed there needs to be a review of the entire needs of the local fishing industry spread across the Co Down ports before big decisions are made about future investment. He said the review will not be completed until December.

Cllr Curran said Ardglass, Kilkeel and Portavogie were at the heart of their respective communities and that new investment was required to allow them to develop. 

“While I welcome the planned review, I am concerned at how long it will take to complete. In addition, how will any recommendations around future investment for example be implemented in the absence of a functioning Stormont Assembly?” he asked.

Newry, Mourne and Down Council has agreed to make £25,000 to assist with plans to regenerate Ardglass harbour, helping secure the future of the village’s fishing industry.

The local authority is making the cash available to the recently formed Ardglass harbour development group which has drawn up a series of proposals to help kick-start the economic regeneration of Ardglass.

The money has been earmarked to help the new group complete a business case aimed at paving the way for a number of projects including deepening the harbour to accommodate larger herring and mackerel vessels and to upgrade berthing facilities for local trawlers.

The Ardglass group is keen to relocate trawlers to the an area known locally as the Saw Pit at the harbour which it wants to deepen in order that vessels are able to 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 earning a living.

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.

Cllr Curran said many people were eager to read the conclusions of the government department’s review, particularly in the context of a post-Brexit scenario.

He added: “At this point in time all those within the fishing sector in particular are looking at the ongoing discussions around Brexit and wondering what any final decision will have on an already heavily regulated industry.”

Meanwhile, Ardglass Golf Club is the venue for a special event next Wednesday, February 19, when funding opportunities under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund support programme will be outlined during an information session which runs between 11am and 3.30pm.

The funding initiative is designed to support a broad range of projects that focus on promoting economic growth through job creation and social inclusion in coastal and inland communities which depend on fishing and aquaculture. 

This includes the diversification of activities within fisheries and into other sectors of the maritime economy with the £2.4m funding cake being administered by the South East Area Fisheries Local Action Group which comprises representatives from the public, private and voluntary sectors within the Newry, Mourne and Down and Ards and North Down council areas.

The projects eligible for financial support must must demonstrate how they will impact on fishing dependent communities.