£2.5million Boost To Coastal Communities Revealed

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan has launched Northern Ireland’s Coastal Communities Fund annual report.

It reveals that this Fund has brought £2.5million to our economy, funding 11 projects based along our coast from Coleraine to Newcastle via Rathlin Island, with grants ranging from £71,000 to £736,000 to help create sustainable economic growth and jobs.

dn_screenHarbour improvements, crafts, fishing, creative foods and building renovations have benefitted from the funding.

Applications for the Fund will reopen this summer and the Minister urges potential applicants to start getting their projects ready.

With three fishing ports in County Down – Portavogie, Kilkeel and Ardglass – it is expected that there will be significant application returned to mark the growing interest in revitalising these harbours. Kilkeel has a strategic partnership up and running, and Ardglass too has a new stakeholder group emerging which will work closely with the NI Fisheries and Harbour Authority to attract inward investment and structural improvements over the next few years. The emphasis is on economic improvements, with social and environmental dimensions.

Mark H Durkan said: “The Coastal Communities Fund is a real shot in the arm for our coastal communities boosting their local economies. The Fund is designed to support the economic development of communities along our coasts. It promotes regeneration and sustains economic growth by funding projects that create new jobs as well as safeguard existing jobs.

“This report highlights some of the local projects, which show just how resourceful our coastal communities are in keeping their towns, villages and islands prosperous and vibrant. I take much pride in being able to assist them by distributing funding that encourages people working together in partnership for the benefit of the whole community.

“Coleraine Harbour is a prime example of this. It has benefitted to the tune of £443,000 from the Fund to improve harbour storage and engineering facilities of 1,500 sq metres. A local company started by two young entrepreneurs, The Skunkworks Surf Company, will be moving in to these new premises from their small workshop in Coleraine. They manufacture their own surf boards and are NI’s first surfboard company. They have pitched to Richard Branson and recently won the top place in the Engineering category at Invent 2015, run by the Northern Ireland Science Park. Skunkworks anticipate a capital spend of £500k on equipment and plan to employ 15-18 people over the next three years.”

“The Fund re-opens for applications this summer. I urge potential applicants to start getting their projects ready now. What I and DOE are about is building a better environment and a stronger economy. This Fund helps do that.”

In highlighting how the funds boost local coastal areas, Coleraine Harbour Master Captain Pat McKeegan said: “The introduction of the grant from the Coastal Communities Fund enabled the Harbour Commissioners to reinstate two derelict transit sheds which has been unused for over 20 years.

“The buildings have been completely refurbished and brought up to a standard comparable with a new building enabling immediate occupation by a manufacturing company which is water related and at the same time fits in with the diversification which the Commissioners envisage for the Harbour Estate.”