STORMONT officials have unveiled a multimillion-pound wishlist for fixing up Grey Point Fort. The coastal defence battery near Helen’s Bay is currently closed to the public, with experts stating that it will need to be heavily overhauled before it can be used as a full-time visitor attraction once again.

Officials from the Department for Communities last week revealed a five-year plan to get Grey Point Fort back on its feet, with an estimated £2.8m of work on the cards. Plans are still at a very early stage, and officials have to consult with nearby residents and sort out a confirmed funding stream before they can start on the repairs.

Reports into the current condition of the site state that it’s in an increasingly poor state, with ‘significant refurbishment works clearly required though the buildings and structures’ of Grey Point Fort. Issues flagged up include water leaking into toilet facilities, problems with electrical items and drainage issues caused by a backup of water. Picnic tables are described as ‘deteriorating’ while metalwork including security fences is held to be in a poor condition throughout the facility.

Reports add there is a threat of the site’s reputation taking a hit ‘should the management and condition of the monument not be seen to improve significantly’. But officials still believe that Grey Point Fort could still have a future as a tourist draw and educational facility, not least as it’s one of the last coastal defence batteries found in Northern Ireland. Finding the fort a future will involve lengthy and costly redevelopment work phased over five years, including building an extension to the fort’s small car park and cutting back trees and shrubbery in the area close to the site.

That was all outlined in reports delivered during a meeting at the fort last week, with two local MLAs welcoming the repair wishlist while reinforcing that officials will need to bring nearby residents on board to make their plans work. Said Alliance’s Andrew Muir: “I welcome these ideas and urge that all voices and views are sought and heard, especially those of local residents to help develop a long term sustainable plan for this key part of our military history which is now sadly closed to the public, apart from one day a month. “With new guns brought up from County Cork in the 1990s and the site home to so much history and many different events such as the firing of the guns in 2018 to commemorate Armistice Day, it is vital that funding is made available to bring the place up to standard and ways explored to enable more to experience the site while also managing concerns about parking and other local infrastructure.”

The DUP’s Stephen Dunne said: “Given the very rich historical value of the fort, it is imperative that the site is preserved and maintained authentically and respectfully in keeping with the local area of Helen’s Bay, and the wonderful natural Coastal Path which runs alongside the fort. “Last week’s meeting at the fort was well attended by various stakeholders and the local community, and was a useful first step to ensure that local residents and historic military enthusiasts who have been a part of the fort over the last number of years are all involved in discussions around potential future uses of the site.”