Work starts on new Visitor Services Building at Harbour

MOYLE District Council's visitor services building at Ballycastle harbour is undergoing a major transformation as part of a £7.4 million marine tourism project encompassing the coastlines of Northern Ireland, north of Belfast Lough, Counties Sligo and Donegal in the Republic of Ireland and a large part of the West Coast of Scotland.

The Council is one of over 20 partners involved in the Sail West Initiative that will develop a range of highly developed boating, angling and marine tourism related infrastructure and activities, and ultimately impact on the number of tourist visitors visiting the partners regions. The initiative is part financed by the European Union's Regional Development Fund through the INTERREG IVA Cross-border Programme managed by the Special EU Programmes Body.

695,975 has been allocated towards the Ballycastle element of the initiative which will see the demolition of the existing bungalow at the harbour which has serviced as the Marina building since the Marina opened in 1999. A new purpose built facility will be constructed which will provide visitors with modern, state of the art facilities which visitors come to expect when visiting marinas.

The new building will provide modern toilet, shower, kitchen and laundry facilities as well as for internet access. The Harbourmaster's office and meeting facilities will also be accommodated within the new building.

Aidan McPeake, Head of Technical Services at Moyle District Council explained that 'the Council's Development and Technical Services departments have been working on the joint Sail West project for several years, and we are delighted that the Ballycastle project has been successful in securing funding.

Since the Council's marina opened in 1999 it has been a tremendous success story, however the shore based facilities in the Marina building were very basic. We want to be able to compete with other coastal destinations and so it is important that we offer a high standard of facility which is expected by visitors. The Council recently appointed GEDA construction to build the new facility with MDA Architects managing the project. The contractor has been on site since the start of the month and it is estimated that the project will be complete by September of this year. In simple economic terms the Council would expect to see more economic spend in the Ballycastle area, in local shops, cafes, restaurants, pubs etc as a result of more visiting boats and particularly boats from Western Scotland'.

The Sail West Initiative is being led by Donegal County Council in conjunction with the project partners.

Frank McGrogan, Sailwest Project Manager with Donegal County Council said 'We are delighted to be working with Moyle District Council on this exciting project which represents one of the larger capital projects in the Sailwest Initiative.

The allocation of almost €700,000 EU funding towards this project not only reinforces the importance of marine tourism for the local area but also the geographic location of Ballycastle as a bridge-head linking Irish and Scottish waters.

As well as the capital investment at Ballycastle, Moyle District Council will also take part in an extensive marketing campaign along with the other Sailwest partners to promote the North Coast of Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and the West Coast of Scotland as exciting and important sailing destinations for sea-faring tourists and for niche activities such as boat charter hire, for diving, whale watching and sea-angling'.