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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

Public consultation to take place amid concerns over closure of Carnfunnock for works

Sign on stone wall for Carnfunnock Country Park

A public consultation will take place to discuss plans for a £6.2m renovation of Carnfunnock Country Park, outside Larne, a meeting at the visitors’ centre on Wednesday morning was told.

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s parks development manager Lindsay Houston addressed community concerns the visitor attraction may be completely closed to facilitate works from June next year.

The council officer said that design plans are currently being drawn up. 

“When we get to the stage where we have concept plans in place, we will have a consultation,” she stated.

She explained 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 officer went on to say a meeting has taken place with business owners on-site after initial talks with the design team indicated the site“will have to close in some capacity” while this work is taking place, but she stressed that “nothing is set in stone”.

“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 business 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.”

She indicated work may start in June 2024 “at the very earliest”.

Mid and East Antrim Mayor Alderman Gerardine Mulvenna, a Coast Road Alliance councillor, told the meeting:

“We do not have the information as councillors yet. We are very fortunate to get the Levelling-Up funding.”

She reported the works must be completed by March 2025.

The meeting at Carnfunnock Country Park was attended by approximately 40 people.

One attendee said: “People are horrified they might lose this facility for a year. With regard to mental health, this place is important for people to come and walk to shower their heads. We just do not want to lose that for a year.”

The council was asked to keep as much of the country park open as possible. The officer was asked about plans to extend the caravan park.

She commented: “There was no interest from user groups to extend the caravan park. We do not want to end up with a big, massive caravan park and nothing else.”

The officer was informed Carnfunnock has been used for the Parkrun for the past ten years. “We are really keen to get as much notice as possible,” a representative said.

Commenting on the closure plan after the meeting, Ian Lough, of Carnfunnock’s Family Fun Zone, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service of the need to be able to at least partially open when the work is taking place.

“It is our livelihood”, he said. He noted that it has been affected recently by bad weather during the summer and by the Covid pandemic.

Chris Lough added: “It could have been planned better.”  He pointed out that the Levelling-Up funding announcement was made in January. He suggested that a more suitable time for closure to facilitate works would be between September and March.

Chris went on to say that there was “stunned silence” when they were told last week that it may be from next June. “We were totally shocked. We would want the council to minimise the impact it would have on us.”

Commenting after the meeting, the mayor spoke of the importance of Carnfunnock for “health and well-being” adding that she does not want to see it fully closed during the refurbishment.

“I just think if it is still kept open, at least part of it. It is big enough to do that. It is imperative for everybody’s health and well-being. It is a very popular place.”

A spokesperson for Mid and East Antrim Borough Council said: “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.”


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