A NEW vision for Bantry envisages bringing tidal water back into the urban centre like the cities of Marseille and Copenhagen.
Other exciting elements included in a report commissioned by the Bantry Bay Port Company are a watersports park in the vicinity of the inner harbour near Whiddy, a walk from the airfield back through the town and out to the Cobb Beach, a new four-storey commercial building in the empty space beside the new supermarket, and mini-parks intersected by walking piers out into the ‘Slob’ land.
An extensive network of boardwalks, planting and outdoor seating are also included in the plan by the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) who were asked to consider the potential of the inner harbour and slob area and essentially unlock the harbour town’s full potential.
Three architects have now presented their ambitious ideas which will help the local community put together a cohesive vision and strategy that will enrich the marine, community, and leisure uses of the town.
These new ideas are currently being assessed by local stakeholders, such as the Bantry Business Association, Tidy Towns committee, and Chamber of Commerce and it’s intended elements will be included in Cork County Council’s next Local Area Plan.
The opening-up of culverts was one of the more innovative ideas presented. It was proposed in the report that the Mill River, which is currently culverted under Wolfe Tone Square, be opened up to offer a water space at the heart of the town.
Another option was that it could be opened and used to create a water feature which would fill as the tide rises, providing an educational aspect to the amenity.
Port of Cork chief executive Brendan Keating said: ‘It is hoped that this plan will raise the profile of Bantry’s maritime opportunity and provide a template for local community groups to engage with public agencies who can assist with deliverable projects, which can attract funding support. The recommendations by the architects of this design review will signpost a realistic pathway which will deliver a new vision for the maritime/harbour interface with the town of Bantry.’
Michael Murphy, assistant harbour master at Bantry Bay Port Company said the plan had the potential to transform the entire town. ‘We’ve had massive regeneration of the town over the last few years and there are parts that still look a little unfinished, so this would allow them to be finished off,’ he said. ‘It gives us a great starting point and signals exciting times ahead.’
This plan, if implemented, would build on the investment of €8.5m in the Bantry Inner Harbour development in 2017. The development consisted of a leisure marina, widening of the town pier, dredging of the inner harbour and creation of a foreshore amenity space.
Sources of possible funding for this new multi-million euro plan would include the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund, and the likes of grant-aid such as tourism, sport and leisure grants.