Revamp under threat

PARTS of Bangor’s £60m revamp of a two-mile stretch of its seafront will be under threat unless Stormont gets over its doomsday flood fears, officials say.

The huge Waterfront project, designed to restore Bangor to its traditional position as Northern Ireland’s number one spot for leisure and tourism, is to be funded by the prestigious Belfast City Deal and has been backed by celebrity fashion designer turned urban

regeneration expert Wayne Hemingway. But Ards and North Down Council high-ups have admitted that sections of the scheme located close to Bangor Marina would fall victim to the same flood fears that have kept the Queen’s

Parade project on ice for the past year. The Queen’s Parade and Waterfront schemes are meant to be the twin prongs of ambitious £110m plans to regenerate Bangor by 2030, spurring the town into a

brand new future.
Yet in an exclusive interview with this

newspaper, senior council officials say parts of the Waterfront project ‘could be at risk if DfI Rivers don’t change their stance’ on fears of floods from a reservoir three miles away from the seafront.

Ambitious plans to reconnect Bangor to its coastline by opening up the area around the Marina, build new decking and revamp pavements to boost sea views, and transform Bregenz House into a new attraction boasting a spa, restaurant, and rooftop garden could all be under threat.

Fearing that the situation will hit future private investment projects planned for the area as well as the Waterfront revamp, local MLA Alan Chambers is now demanding Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon scrap all barriers to future developments in the supposed flood risk zone by approving the Queen’s Parade scheme.

Senior Ards and North Down Council officials have revealed that sections of the Waterfront scheme located in the centre of Bangor could fall victim to the same flood fears that have kept Queen’s Parade on ice for the past year.

The Waterfront scheme is due to revamp two miles of Bangor’s coast, from Skippingstone Beach right round to Ballyholme Bay.

According to senior council officials, most of the scheme falls outside the flood risk zone the Department for Infrastructure’s Rivers section used to justify freezing Queen’s Parade.

But civil servants might state that some elements of the Waterfront scheme set for the area around Bangor Marina are at risk of flooding from a late three miles away – meaning that, as head of regeneration Susie McCullough confessed, parts of the project ‘could be at risk if DfI Rivers don’t change their stance’.

Speaking exclusively to the Spectator, senior council officials said that they’re thinking of dividing the Waterfront project up into several different planning applications.

That would allow sections of it that aren’t in the risk zone to go ahead, rather than letting the whole thing fall victim to civil servants’ flood fears about the centre of Bangor.

Officials don’t think the potential problems will affect their ability to

qualify for £40m in grant money from the Belfast City Region Deal that they need to pay for a large amount of the overhaul.

But they admitted they could be in for another battle with DfI Rivers in getting elements of the scheme approved.

Parts of the project around Pickie, Kingsland and Ballyholme aren’t in the

flood risk zone civil servants flagged up in their computer modelling, so should get through planning without much trouble from the Rivers section.

But the marina area might be a different prospect. Around there, the council wants to construct large amounts of new public decking to improve views across the water, as well

as transforming seafront Bregenz House into what’s described as an ‘iconic building’ featuring a restaurant, bar, spa and roof garden.

The council also plans to reorient pontoons in the marina to allow larger vessels to dock, carry out improvements to the area’s footpaths and walkways, and turn the McKee

Clock Arena into a flexible space that can be used for either parking or events.

But council planning head, Ann McCullough, said to do that, the council has to run its plans by DfI Rivers, who will apply the same computer modelling that has held up Queen’s Parade.

“We will potentially be in the same position if it affects certain areas, but we’re hopeful that it won’t extend to the full extent of the waterfront [project],” she said.

“Whether we come in with individual projects to look at those in isolation, we certainly will be carrying out a

consultation with Rivers, and doing a weighing-up process in that regard.”

The council’s head of regeneration, Susie McCullough, reinforced that parts of the two-mile scheme ‘are outside the flooding risks so shouldn’t be challenged’, but admitted that sections of it close to Queen’s Parade could be hit by the flood fears.

“Our hope is that it will not pose a risk to the Bangor Waterfront [revamp overall],” she said, “but we are very aware that there may be a few of the schemes within that project that could be at risk if DfI Rivers don’t change their stance.”

The Waterfront scheme is an ambitious plan to transform Bangor’s faded coast into a thriving draw that will delight locals and visitors alike, and many sections of the project have been added in as a direct result of heavy public demand expressed during a consultation process.

Costing £64m in total and to be built over the course of at least seven years, in addition to the marina plans the scheme includes adding in new features to make Skippingstone Beach a tourist attracting sea swimming spot, turning Ballyholme Bay into a world-class watersports area, and transforming Kingsland’s little-used pitch and putt facility into a much- requested open-air skate park.

Backed by a prestigious team, including celebrity fashion designer turned urban regeneration expert Wayne Hemingway, the changes are designed to reconnect Bangor to its coastline while returning the town to its traditional position as Northern Ireland’s number one spot for leisure and tourism.