Boardwalk extension 'approved'

AMBITIOUS proposals to extend the Six Mile boardwalk in the heart of Antrim have been recommended for approval - despite significant objections from people living nearby.

It was due to come before the Council’s Planning Committee last night (Monday) where it was expected to get the green light.

The current boardwalk comes to an abrupt end just short of the listed Massereene Bridge, but the Antrim Towns Development Company want it to continue right under the second arch and along Riverside as far as number 16.

In total, the application spans 160 metres.

There have been no objections from any of the statutory consultees, including the Historic Environment Division, DFI Rivers and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, but some residents remain uneasy.

Nine letters have been received to date, voicing concerns about noise, loss of privacy and anti-social behaviour.

True, the existing boardwalk has been blighted with many of these issues in the past with vandalism and underage drinking persistent problems.

An extension, say locals, only serves to offer another gathering point far from prying eyes.

Though the first phase has perhaps not been quite the draw originally imagined, the applicant clearly thinks the extension will be a more attractive proposition.

It will be split into two distinct sections. One will pass under the arch of the bridge and measure approximately 80 metres, with the second roughly the same size extending further upstream into the Antrim Conservation Area.

Where they meet, to the rear of the old Presbyterian Church, there would be a square ‘finished with sandstone paving slabs’ planted up with cherry trees.

The boardwalk itself will look pretty much like stage one, with a steel structured base finished with timber and steel balustrades.

And this sense of continuity appears to have appealed to the Planners.

“It is considered that the design of the boardwalk is an appropriate form of development in relation to the overall scale, form, materials and detail of the proposed development,” said a spokesperson.

“It is also considered that the proposal is a natural progression of the existing boardwalk which respects and enhances the character of the Riverside sector and the wider Antrim town centre.”

Obviously there were some concerns about tinkering under the bridge itself, with its listed status - but it has been stressed that it will remain ‘intact and unimpaired’. Furthermore, the Planners maintain that the wooden walkway will not ‘take away from the interest and merit of the bridge setting’.

Which leaves the problems of the less than happy neighbours.

The Planners, however, reckon that there is ample ‘separation’ between the path and their gardens - ranging from 14.8 metres to 7.6 metres at number 16.

“It is considered that the extension to the existing boardwalk would not significantly impact on the private amenity of the residential properties of Riverside or indeed the commercial properties along High Street in terms of overlooking, loss of privacy, noise or general disturbance.”

Similarly, protected animals, like otters and bats, would not be disturbed.

Assuming the proposal was rubber-stamped after the Guardian went to press, it is understood that the applicant now has five years to get the project off the ground.

Insiders have warned, however, that funding could ultimately be the stumbling block.

In the current economic climate, the Antrim Town Development Company may need a miracle if they are determined to help people walk over the water.

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