£40m Ardglass harbour investment edges closer

£40m Ardglass harbour investment edges closer

14 July 2021

PLANS for a £40 million improvement package for Ardglass harbour have taken a step closer.

A senior Stormont official visited Ardglass last week where he met with local fishermen and members of a group behind the ambitious scheme.

Mr Owen Lyttle, Head of Fishing and Marine Development with the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, took part in a meeting to discuss plans which include the deepening of the harbour, the construction of a pontoon and development of onshore facilities.

Also attending the meeting were representatives from the Northern Ireland Fishery Harbour Authority, Newry Mourne and Down District Council, the Northern Ireland Fish Producers Organisation and the Ardglass Harbour Developments (AHD) group.

The AHD group set up four years ago when fish producers, boat owners, skippers, fish sales businesses and community members came together and form a limited company by guarantee to help initiate vital improvements needed for the harbour. 

After the meeting Mr Lyttle said he welcomed the opportunity to discuss plans for developing the harbour. 

He said a process had begun to secure investment for the modernisation of Ardglass harbour, as well as Kilkeel and Portavogie. 

“There will be quite a number of small steps to take and initially it might appear slow, but once the project boards and teams are operating it should speed up. We hope to be in action by 2023 when the programme delivery team will hand over,” he said.

“There will no doubt be a lot of challenges but I will be pressing forward to form the boards to work on these technical issues very soon. 

“Once we understand the basic costs of the project we can refine it to a business plan and then factor in the environmental and technical costs to ensure it is all sustainable and within budget.”

Mr Comgall Milligan, AHD chairman said: “I am delighted that the progress being made so far. Our local group is keen to work with the projects boards and everyone, including our council, to help further improvements to the harbour. 

“The herring and mackerel processors in Ardglass will benefit as the larger vessels will then be able to dock and unload in Ardglass and it will hopefully cut down haulage costs and be of an environmental benefit.

“These infrastructural improvements will support jobs in the future and help keep Ardglass to the forefront of the fishing industry where it has been for the past 200+ years.” 

Mr Dick James, project managing for the AHD group, said: “Our group is comprised of stakeholders from the different sectors of the fishing industry. It is our aim to make Ardglass port fit for purpose for the fleet. 

“Vessels have become much more deeper draughted in recent years and therefore once again, Ardglass is at that historic point where it needs to adjust to the needs of the market. And one of the key elements in this is creating a safe harbour for all its users.

“We look forward to working with Owen Lyttle and his teams and we will keep the local fishing sector briefed on works as they progress.”