Towns along the Lower Bann get INTERREG funding boost

The Joint Council Committee for the North East region, the North East Partnership (NEP), has announced the official launch of its cross-border RIVER project, which will see £1.29 million being invested into five inland waterway improvement and emergency rescue projects along the Lower Bann and River Erne, thanks to support from the European Union’s INTERREG IVA Programme.

Speaking at the official launch of the RIVER project at Portglenone Marina, the Chair of NEP and Mayor of Ballymena, Ald PJ McAvoy, said: “The realisation of the RIVER project is a great boost to the towns of Portglenone, Ballymoney, Kilrea and Belturbet in Cavan. An inland waterways project, RIVER will regenerate facilities at Drumaheglis Marina in Ballymoney, and Belturbet Marina in Cavan, with the Portglenone Marina project having recently been completed.

“Kilrea town will also undergo an environmental improvement scheme. Our emergency rescue partner, the Community Rescue Service, who have their boats here today, have also benefited from new and much welcomed radio communication equipment.”

The venue for the official launch, Portglenone Marina, has undergone a transformation, with the construction of a new pontoon and jetties, thanks to funding from not only INTERREG IVA, but from the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) as well.

Ballymena Borough Council’s Chief Executive, Mrs Anne Donaghy, stated that: “The RIVER Project has delivered fantastic results in Portglenone Marina and I would encourage residents to use this newly developed facility. For me it demonstrates the real and true civic leadership shown by Ballymena Borough Council’s Elected Members. The Council has set a clear vision to increase the tourism offering across the Ballymena Borough. The Elected Members are clear that this will bring more people to our Borough, and in turn increase the economic activity across the Borough.”

Officially launching the project, the Permanent Secretary for the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Gerry Lavery, said:

“DARD is very aware of the importance of cross-border cooperation in fostering and supporting rural regeneration. Our involvement in the RIVER project is a practical outworking of DARD’s goal for thriving and sustainable rural communities. I congratulate all those involved in this project and am confident that it will provide valuable legacies for years to come. ”

Co-launching the event, the Southern Minister of State, Minister Fergus O’Dowd, said: “Cavan County Council has welcomed the INTERREG IVA Programme funding for the overdue development of its Belturbet Marina. Works will commence soon, which will include a replacement floating jetty, and much needed passing bays along the access road. The river area is of major significance to the town of Belturbet from a tourism perspective, and a stop off point for boats using the Shannon Erne Waterway.

The RIVER project brings together Ballymena, Ballymoney, and Coleraine Borough Councils, and Cavan County Council, as well as the Community Rescue Service, whose volunteers literally provide a ‘life-saving’ service.

Welcoming the project, Pat Colgan, Chief Executive of the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB), which is responsible for managing the EU’s INTERREG IVA programme said: “This is an excellent example of a locally focused regeneration project that will breathe new life into the marine economy, on a cross-border basis. It will help to develop the local community infrastructure of four separate villages and towns in Portglenone, Ballymoney, Kilrea and Belturbet. Upon completion the RIVER project will enhance the lives of people living within these areas and create new tourism opportunities. In addition, it will also provide equipment to support the volunteers who make up the Community Rescue Service throughout the area.” 

The North East Partnership is one of five cross-border partnerships who bid for INTERREG funding. To date the North East Partnership has secured approximately £8.4 million pounds of INTERREG IVA funding for a variety of cross border projects. Aside from the RIVER project, other projects which have successfully received funding include the Gobbins and Sliabh Liag project, which is seeing the restoration of the famous Gobbins cliff path in Islandmagee, which in its heyday attracted more visitors than the Giant’s Causeway; together with the development of visitor amenity facilities at Sliabh Liag in Western Co. Donegal, the highest sea cliffs in Europe.