BALLYHALBERT’S Victorian harbour at Burr Point is under threat of collapse, it has been claimed.
Local historian and maritime author Dr Crosbie Smith has warned that the 1885 structure, damaged by the constant battering of the sea, could end up being closed to water users, if not restored.
Dr Smith, a daily boat user who lives at Sandylands, adjacent to the harbour, says serious sea water ingress has caused damage to the outer concrete shell of the pier end, with the repeated breach of wave action.
Ards eninsula councillor, Pete Wray, joined Dr Smith recently to inspect the damage, which is only visible from the sea side of the pier end, where it juts into Ballyhalbert Bay.
Burr Point harbour – the most easterly point on the island of Ireland – is home to the Burr Point Buoys open sea swimming group and is a popular destination for paddleboarders, kayakers and jet skiers, but its history goes back a lot further than the 21st century, according to Dr Smith.
“Ballyhalbert harbour has withstood powerful easterly storms for almost 140 years,” he said.
“It was originally constructed to offer protection for the herring fleets around the most easterly point in Ireland, and also served as an early 19th century loading berth for cargoes of farm produce, bound in coastal sailing vessels for Belfast’s hungry industrial populations,” he said.
“The quay is currently in need of urgent attention before a major collapse of the concrete casing, at the pier end, where a large cavity has opened up. Structural failure at this point would lead to its immediate and complete closure to boat owners, anglers and swimmers.
“There is also an extensive indentation on the main harbour wall, left by the decommissioned Portavogie trawler, Ocean Venture, which battered the quay for almost two years.”
Mr Wray said it was important to ensure the longevity of the harbour for many more generations of local people and tourists.
“I intend to put forward a notice of motion within the council asking for officers to report on the current damage to the harbour, and to provide costings for its restoration along with appropriate funding streams which can be used to complete these works in a timely manner,” said Mr Wray.
“We must act fast on this issue before more significant damage is done, thus avoiding potential health and safety issues, and higher repair costs.”