Cork’s harbourmaster visited Bantry to outline the finer details of the town’s €9m marina which opens this summer and is set to bring a wave of marine tourism and activity to the area, writes Aisling Meath
A WEEKEND of celebrations is planned for Bantry on August 11th-13th to celebrate the opening of their new €9m harbour and marina development.
Set for completion in mid July the works will lead to an upturn in marine tourism in the area and will build on the success of the Wild Atlantic Way.
The sun was shining over the bay when Captain Paul O’Regan, harbourmaster of both Bantry and Cork ports, accompanied by Brendan Keating, Port of Cork chief executive recently inspected the progress of the multi million euro project which hasbeen under construction since March, 2016.
Mr Keating said: ‘Work tothe pier will mean there will be improved berthage available for larger marine vessels, which will hopefully lead to an upturn in marine leisure in and around the harbour
‘It will also ensure improved longevity of the existing pier structure and will facilitate existing activities.’
Capt O’Regan said they were ‘satisfied that all is going forward smoothly’ and were looking forard to the opening which all going well will coincide with the town’s Maritime Festival.
At 35km long, Bantry Bay is the largest of the long marine inlets in the south west.
The scheme has been in the pipeline since 2012 when it was developed by the Bantry Bay Harbour Commissioners with planning permission granted in 2013. Cork County Council granted planning modifications to the breakwater, pier head alignment, and marina pontoon in January last.
This will provide for a more sheltered harbour environment, access to the inner harbour at all tides, a marina with increased water depth and improved pier facilities, which is hoped will in turn facilitate fishing and tourism activities in the Bantry area.
A waste licence was granted by the Environmental Protection Agency in November ato allow for dredging and cement stabilisation works which are now complete.
Capt O’Regan said: ‘The works have also involved pre-cast concrete installation of anchor ties to the Bantry pier, pre-cast concrete panel installation to the outer Bantry pier, reinforced concrete deck slab construction and pre-cast concrete panel installation to the quayside.’
The dredging process alone cost about €2m – this process sees the dredge material recycled into the works as a fill material.
The total dredge quantity taken out was approx. 40,000 m3. Removal of rock is currently underway at the site.
Dredging was needed to ensure that there was a depth of four metres at the pier, and three metres at the yacht berths, which will allow access to the inner harbour at all tides. ‘It will be a safe place for people to leave their vessels,’ explained the harbourmaster.
It will also make the town very accessible to sea-faring tourists.
This area is to become a new amenity area which has been developed in consultation with the County Council.
The area will have a grassy section, and seating.
Chief executive of the local authority Tim Lucey told the Southern Star the local authority would have responsibility for its upkeep and it will provide easy access and offer enhanced and stunning views of the harbour from shoreside.
Capt O’Regan added: ‘My own father Denis is from Castletownbere, and has been fishing there for over 40 years. ‘The landscape in this region is beautiful, so imagine how breathtaking it looks from the sea?
‘We are looking forward to building on the success of the Wild Atlantic Way and generating more tourism in the area through this wonderful marine facility being available.’
The Bantry Bay Port Company is delighted to be supporting many local events and local initiatives, including the West Cork Literacy Festival, the Bantry Longboat Festival and the annual Blessing of the Boats ceremony.
Their recent primary schools initiative for 2017 had as its theme ‘WW1 – the US navy in Bantry harbour in 1917,’ and its aim was to encourage schoolchildren to explore the great maritime history of their town. The lucky winners, Kealkil National School, were treated to a kayaking trip along the Bantry Blueway, Munster’s first Blueway initiative.
The Blueways comprise a series of 2km, 6km and 9km looped water trails located between the town and Whiddy. They are suitable for all levels of ability.
‘Our marine tourism is generated from both domestic and international markets,’ pointed out Capt O’Regan. ‘The marina and the Bantry Blueway will be great assets to the port and there is consistent local interest in these facilities as well.’
A series of events are planned to mark the opening.
Tickets are already gone for one event which will see people sail their vessel into Bantry for a festival BBQ and berth in the new marina to spend a few days visiting the surrounding area. The first 20 boats registered received a €100 voucher for a local restaurant.
‘The pier is also being designed with security in mind, and we plan on having strict passport controls set up in conjunction with the local gardaí at Bantry Port,’ confirmed Capt O’Regan. ‘Bantry will be welcoming international visitors to the area from cruise ships going ashore for trips to the locality, and as such they will be monitored upon entry.’
A temporary gangway was installed at the railway pier to maintain ferry operations, with a similar one installed at the Bantry pier to facilitate both fishermen and ferry operations in poor weather for the duration of the works.
‘We would like to acknowledge the co-operation of the local users of Bantry pier – fishermen, ferry operators and the aquaculture sector – for their patience with the inconvenience caused at times during the progression of the works.
‘However, we look forward to the future when the improved facilities will provide a sustainable facility for all users,’ concluded Capt O’Regan.
Bantry Development and Tourism’s Eileen O’Shea has also wholeheartedly welcomed the new marina development.
‘The marine tourism that it will generate will be an added attraction to the many others already found in the region, and will also greatly enhance the scenic entry into Bantry town,’ she told The Southern Star. ‘Many passengers visit our main attractions like Bantry House, Gougane Barra, the Beara Peninsula, the Heritage Centre in Skibbereen, as well as enjoying some of our local walks and shopping.’
However Eileen said many of them make return visits independently.
‘They can also enjoy kayaking on the Bantry Blueway, which is proving very popular with locals and visitors alike.’
• There are eight cruise liners scheduled to dock at Bantry Port this summer and the first arrived earlier this week. The Astor arrived on May 16th and spent the day docked in the harbour.
On May 24th the Ocean Nova (2pm to 7pm) arrives and on June 10th it will be the turn of the Saga Sapphire (8am-6pm). One June 12th the Princindam arrives at 8am and will depart at 6pm; The Agen Oddessy arrives on July 31st at 7am and leaves at 8pm and on August 24th Bantry hosts the Serenissima (6.30am-6pm).
The final visit of the year comes on September 13th when the Saga Pearl 2 arrives.
‘We did what Billy told us’ – Westport took its inspiration from West Cork
With the town’s marina almost finished, the local Chamber of Commerce invited Westport town architect Simon Wall to the south to explain how the Mayo town got it so right, writes Jackie Keogh
IMITATION is the sincerest form of flattery, according to Westport town architect Simon Wall who admitted they got their inspiration from West Cork.
Simon, told a recent gathering of Bantry Chamber of Commerce, how some 20 years ago, along with members of Westport Town Council he travelled south, and then west, to speak to Billy Houlihan, then Cork County Council’s award-winning architect.
They picked Billy’s brains and went back to Westport with a very clear idea of what they needed to do to transform the fortunes of their popular but under-developed tourist town.
In the intervening years, Westport has won award after award, including being voted the best place in Ireland in which to live.
Speaking to assembled members of the chamber at the Maritime Hotel his message was clear: ‘We did what Billy told us.’
In rural Ireland today, he said, it is not enough to survive, you have to thrive and that requires ‘a strong, local community working together.’
The architect drew comparisons between the two towns saying Westport had Westport House and Bantry had Bantry House as flagship tourist attractions.
‘Neither town is Spain. We are not offering weather. We are offering cultural tourism,’ he said.
He said Westport was well placed to avail of Section 23 tax breaks during the Celtic Tiger era, but two decades of good planning and hard work is what is at the root of the town’s success.
In a slideshow, he showed what could be achieved on brown field sites: how they were utilised to provide pedestrianised side-streets and parking away from the main thoroughfare.
But he maintains every town, including Bantry, has to start with a plan – a Town Design Statement.
Simon was adamant: ‘You start small.’
He said they started the town’s transformation by cleaning up the signage and putting in place licensed finger-post signs.
‘After that we looked at planting and began running planning clinics on the same model suggested by Billy Houlihan, where we offered people advice about colour schemes.
‘It’s all about keeping the buildings sharp,’ he said, ‘and changing it up every couple of years.’
Aside from all of the awards, one of the key indicators of Westport’s success is that people are moving back to live in the town centre.
A slideshow of before and after photographs of what Westport has achieved was sufficiently stunning to make peoples’ jaws drop.
But Simon admitted that the Council had to make tough decisions too and there were plenty of car parking spaces on the main thoroughfare that had to be sacrificed for the greater good.
Small tips included the planting of mature trees on the main streets instead of wee slips of things. These, he said, have proven to be cost effective.
But he said that none of the town’s success would have been possible without the goodwill and active involvement of commercial and community groups working in close co-operation with the Town Council.
Any group that is willing to co-operate with the Council is ‘an asset’ and should be treated as such, he said.
His final comments to the assembled members of Bantry Chamber of Commerce at the Maritime Hotel were: ‘The material you have to work with here is fantastic. You can’t change everything straight away. You have to start small: start with one project and work from there. You have to build confidence. One success leads to another and it engenders positivity.’