More than 660 people have signed a petition demanding access to Carnfunnock Country Park outside Larne throughout a £6.2m upgrade planned by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.
Friends of Carnfunnock are objecting to any full closure of the country park to facilitate renovations and wish access to be included from the planning stage.
“While we welcome improvements to enhance the park’s facilities, we are deeply concerned about the nature of those improvements and the potential access disruptions during this period. Carnfunnock Country Park is more than just a recreational area; it is a lifeline for many.
“We demand that the Mid and East Antrim Borough Council provide an unequivocal guarantee that Carnfunnock Country Park will remain open at all times during the refurbishment process.
“We insist that this principle be central in all design plans and contractual agreements with contractors involved.
“We demand honest and detailed information about the planned refurbishment and what it will mean for current user groups and the natural biodiversity within the park.
“Our plea isn’t just about preserving access; it’s about safeguarding our community’s health and well-being and caring for our natural environment.”
Online comments included in the petition are:
“This is a very precious and important place for people who need to be able to access open and natural spaces, to support their mental health or general welfare.”
“I believe this park gives a sense of well-being to many people.”
“People need to access this park for their health and well-being, the public must be able to access it all year round and complete closure is not acceptable while it is being refurbished.”
“I rely on Carnfunnock as an area my son who is autistic feels safe and can let out his sensory issues in a controlled and safe environment. I would be devastated if it was closed for a year.”
“The public must have uninterrupted access to nature spaces. Keep Carnfunnock Country Park open.”
Last month, a meeting at Carnfunnock was attended by approximately 40 people who came out in opposition to a potential 12-month closure. They were advised work is due to commence in June 2024 “at the very earliest” and must be completed by March 2025.
The “majority of work” will be at the visitor centre building to accommodate a reception/shop space, café and toilet facilities. A new playground is planned as well as an upgrade to the existing caravan park, amenity block and activity centre facilities.
A cycling facility will create an attraction for older children and investment in the existing adventure play is planned alongside a new playground and upgrade to path infrastructure.
The council has said design plans are currently being drawn up and when concept plans are in place, a public consultation will be held.
Speaking at the meeting in Carnfunnock, the council’s parks development manager Lindsay Houston said initial talks with the design team indicated the site “will have to close in some capacity” while this work is taking place, although “nothing is set in stone”.
She also said: “For a period of time, the site will close. As a matter of respect, I met with the businesses one-to-one to give them the heads-up that this could be happening. I wanted the businesses to know that at some stage, the site will be closed.
“If that is part of it or whether it is the whole site, I felt it was important that the businesses knew so that they could prepare. The priority is health and safety. We can’t have this site open as normal to do this work.
“When the design is complete, there will be a full public consultation. People will be invited to come along and give their view on these concept plans.
“Health and safety is a priority followed by impact on user groups. We want to get this project done within budget and as quickly as possible and keep people safe.”
Mid and East Antrim Borough Council did not issue any further comment.
A council spokesperson said previously:
“We are aware of some concerns that the transformational works to the park will require a prolonged period of closure.
“We want to reassure residents, visitors and businesses that no decision has yet been taken regarding the facilitation of the investment works at the park and how we deliver these in the most cost-effective and less disruptive way.
“We are considering a range of options and these will then be put to the community for consultation and feedback before a way forward is agreed.
“We will continue to talk and listen to residents, visitors and businesses and keep them updated over the weeks and months ahead. Information will also be posted on council’s website and social media channels, and anybody with any queries or concerns is asked to contact council so we can address these.”