BY CAMMY HARLEY
PLANS for an extensive marine activity centre in Bantry, which would include two waterfront buildings, pontoon and even a café, were unveiled at a recent public meeting in the town.
Following a consultation with the community, the preferred site for the marine centre is west of the Abbey commercial slipway, on the Cork side of the N22.
Two waterfront buildings would provide a base for the centre which would comprise a multipurpose public room, boat shed, events space, kitchen/café, changing areas, storage and drying spaces, a slipway and pontoons, a swimming area, dinghy storage, rockpools, and parking with provision for workshops, saunas and temporary additions such as food trucks or temporary shelter, a recent meeting heard.
The details of the plan were unveiled by the Bantry Marine Activities Centre (Bmac) committee at an information evening in the Marino Church.
Tara Kennedy of consultants AP+E Architects said the site was also chosen as the preferred one, as it could provide a shared space for marine activity that can be used by a number of different stakeholder groups simultaneously in the town and could host specialised large scale events to assist making Bantry ‘a maritime destination point’.
The concept design presented is for two waterfront buildings with roofs that slope to echo the hill behind, and an overhang to create sheltered outdoor spaces for flexible use.
Bmac was established in 2015 to build a shared, multi-purpose and universally accessible marine activities facility on the shores of Bantry Bay.
Early in 2023, AP+E Architects were appointed to develop a feasibility study for the project. They have expertise in relation to small towns, community engagement, as well as spatial and economic analysis.
The Bantry feasibility study combined public engagement with holistic analysis and long‐term strategies for the development of the community-led amenity project.
The survey was funded by the Bantry Community Fund and had an overwhelmingly positive response from people across all age-groups and demographics, the meeting was told.
Ms Kennedy outlined the policy context that supports the proposal, including aims for Bantry in the Cork County Development Plan 2022 as well as key actions outlined in the West Cork and Kenmare Destination and Experience Development Plan (DEDP) published in October 2023 by Fáilte Ireland.
‘The online survey was hugely successful, with 415 responses across all age demographics,’ she told The Southern Star. ‘Crucially, there was a clear representation, both from those already involved with the various marine-based clubs, and people who are not already involved in marine activities.’
Overall support for the project was overwhelming, with 94% of respondents positive about the plan, she said.
The key indicator listed for success of the project was community use, and Tara said that the next steps, once the feasibility study is finalised, will include the engagement of a full team to prepare a planning application, as well as continued research in preparation for sourcing significant project capital funding.
The Bmac committee consists of voluntary members from Bantry Bay Sailing Club, Bantry Rowing Club and Atlantic Challenge Ireland. It also invited regular open water swimmers, Bantry Bay Boat Hire and other foreshore users, such as the Ellen Hutchins Foundation, to express their opinions and suggestions.
Tara said quotes from the original survey included a comment from one respondent who said: ‘Every locality should utilise its strengths and Bantry has a natural strength in the sea.’
Bmac has extended a public invitation for its agm which will be held on December 8th at the Marino Church. The final report on the feasibility study will be presented after the meeting.