Council throws support lifeline to Kircubbin harbour campaigners

New report will set out local authority’s restoration options


By Julie Waters


ARDS and North Down Council has pledged to leave ‘no stone unturned’ in an effort to help save historic Kircubbin harbour from collapsing into the sea.

The harbour has deteriorated into a critical condition in recent years, largely caused by storm damage, with fears it could soon be lost forever.

However, following an impassioned presentation from a deputation by the Kircubbin and District Community Association, the council has agreed to throw a lifeline of support to this determined group.

At a recent sitting of the council’s Place and Prosperity Committee, councillors tasked local authority officers to compile a report outlining ‘the options’ available to help save the harbour.

Just last month, the harbour owner offered the harbour to the council for a ‘nominal consideration’, an option likely to be considered in the council report. 

The public gallery was packed with concerned local people, including councillor Joe Boyle and former Assemblyman Kieran McCarthy, keen to show their support for this well known local landmark.

The harbour, which still functions serving two small commercial fishing vessels and a leisure yacht, is in urgent need of repair to secure its structural integrity.

The quay and the harbour boasts a rich history stretching back 260 years; built in the18th century, the former Duke of Edinburgh Prince Philip landed at the harbour during A royal visit in 1966

Brian Bailie, association chair, led the calls for council support, saying the ‘council have a track record for delivering projects’ and appealed for their help to save the harbour.

“We are here to persuade you this is a real opportunity, not just for Kircubbin, but for the wider borough, to establish a centre for marine pursuits,” said Mr Bailie.

Stating that Kircubbin was ‘right in the middle of the lough’ he highlighted its Special Protection Area status for nature conservation recognised by both national and international designations.

He said there was ‘so much untapped opportunity on our doorstep’ and the harbour was the ‘ideal location’ to develop activities such as historical boat trips, scuba diving, kayaking and sea safaris.

However he said none of these entrepreneurial pursuits would be possible ‘without a functioning harbour’.

Mr Bailie said that rather than asking should Kircubbin harbour be preserved and restored ‘the real question is should the council get involved?’

He said the council had qualified staff with knowledge and expertise as well as a relationship with a potential group of funders for the restoration work.

Without the council’s help, Mr Bailie said the only practical alternative was to set up a limited company, which would be a slow process, and take up some time to build up credibility with funders.

Proposing that the council bring back a report detailing their options for supporting the harbour’s regeneration Alderman Robert Adair said: “We have a full gallery here tonight and people have put in an awful lot of hard work.

“The council owes it to them to see what our options are. It lets people see that their voices are being heard on this matter. It is a regrettable situation that the harbour has been in a state of disrepair for so many years.”

Praising former Strangford MLA Kieran McCarthy for his efforts Mr Adair told the public gallery, ‘we will do what we can to support you’.

Councillor Richard Smart said the debate made him feel ‘two extreme emotions – both impressed and depressed’.

He said: “I am impressed by the huge effort of the community to highlight this issue and I have no doubt it would not be on tonight’s agenda without the efforts of the community.”

However the councillor said he was depressed given the ‘absolutely shocking’ damage already sustained by this historical asset in recent years.

Supporting the proposal, Mr Smart said it was ‘absolutely right’ that the council ‘leave no stone unturned to find a resolution to this issue’.

Also lending his support to the proposal, councillor Nigel Edmund said this was a ‘historic pier’ and ‘if we can get a report back we can explore the possibilities, we need knowledge’.

Each committee decision must be ratified by a full council meeting at the end of the month.