PLANS to transform the Bangor Waterfront ‘necklace’ with a £72.8m redevelopment project over the next 10 years have been revealed.
There was standing room only on Tuesday evening at the first information meeting held to announce the multi-million pound project that is set to breathe new life into five separate seafront ‘pearls’ stretching along the two mile stretch from Skippingstone Beach round to Ballyholme.
Local residents and elected representatives alike filled Ballyholme’s St Columbanus Parish Church Hall as Susie McCullough, the council’s director of place, outlined the rejuvenation of what has become known as a ‘necklace or chain’ of locations around the Bangor coast.
This ambitious project is already six years in the making with much of the funding finally secured earlier this year – £40m awarded from the Department for Communities, around £20m council investment and a further £12.8m will be sought from the private sector over the course of the project.
The council’s aim is to deliver jobs, increased footfall and an economic boost for the borough; there are ambitious hopes the scheme will bring a 100,000 increase in visitor numbers per annum by 2030, a £110.2m boost to the economy by 2035 as well as 489 additional jobs – 258 in construction and 231 operational jobs, also by 2035.
Hailed as a ‘once in a generation opportunity’ it is envisioned construction will begin in 2026 after consultancy teams have been appointed and design development completed. A series of information meetings are scheduled to be held across the borough in the coming months, with further public consultation planned on the designs.
The council director stressed the Bangor waterfront redevelopment scheme was separate and in addition to the £50m Queen’s Parade redevelopment scheme being carried out by Bangor Marine.
The director explained the five waterfront projects would be completed in order of – Ballyholme Yacht Club Watersports Centre, the second phase of the Court House, the urban waterfront, Pickie Fun Park and finally Bangor Marina which would be the longest project to complete. Going through each of the projects, she stressed that at this stage they were ‘ideas’ and may not be ‘what we will deliver on the ground’
Turning first to the public realm/urban waterfront, she said this revamp would begin at Skippingstone beach and stretch round to Ballyholme. At Skippingstone Beach, and working with local sea swimmers, they hoped to install showers, better access to the popular bathing area, new lighting and benches.
She said the aspiration for Kingsland and Ballyholme was to put in ‘more of a park with beach huts down to the water’. She said of the 2,000 people who took part in a recent survey, the main request was for a skate park or pump track for bicycles. She said the council facilities for teenagers are ‘limited’ and this was all being considered as part of the council’s play strategy.
Turning to the Ballyholme green area, Ms McCullough said they hoped to install better toilets, showers and access to the beach. At the Ballyholme promenade she said there were conflicting views on the need for health and safety railings along the walkway. She also said the scheme would revamp the Banks Lane area with play areas and showers and making it more accessible for beach users.
On the Pickie Fun Park project, the director said their aim was to ensure the park remained as one of the top 10 visitor attractions in Northern Ireland. They hoped to provide new attractions for both children and young adults, with an extension to the cafe and feature landscaping to ‘better integrate with the new Urban Waterfront design along the coastline.
She said the BYC Watersports Centre project will provide the borough with a world class facility for watersports with a replacement building set to attract and host additional national and international sailing and waterspouts events.
Turning to the Court House project, at Quay Street, the vision for the second phase of the historic building’s refurbishment is to create additional capacity for events and workspaces to further enhance its reputation as a Bangor venue.
The scheme’s fifth project will be the Marina with initial design concepts proposing additional public access with dropped boardwalks, seating and viewing areas and ‘the welcome opportunity for food and beverage offerings to be integrated into the Marina’.
She said they would not be carrying out an initial proposal of ‘let’s knock Bergenz House down’ but instead hoped to create boardwalks around it and realign the car parks. “We do need the boatyard,” said Ms McCullough, ‘but we hope to make it a nicer space’.