WMUD were appointed as part of a team led by Derry based RPD Consulting to examine the harbour lands of Coleraine and provide advice on a way forward. It was accepted from the outset that the land was more than a development opportunity and have to be viewed in a wider context, not just of the town but as a component of the wider maritime context including the North Coast of Ireland and the West Coast of Scotland. The harbour is also one of several assets along the Lower Bann inland waterway that could potentially form part of a varied and rich tourism and leisure offer, as an essential element in the waterways tourism infrastructure of Northern Ireland and the wider Island of Ireland.
We held workshops with the Harbour Commissioners and a range of public and private sector bodies and discussed a range of strategic propositions from which we developed some conceptual ideas for the future development of the harbour lands. The broader strategic concept is based on three principles:
a) to position Coleraine within the wider inter-regional maritime context
b) to establish a strategic vision for the Lower River Bann as a major economic and tourism driver for the region
The spatial concepts for the harbour lands themselves indicate how a range of development scenarios might be considered from a largely maritime industrial complex to a more significant reappraisal of the existing Dunne’s site as part of the development mix. The concepts are meant as tools for further consideration of the site’s future, not as development solutions and they provide the basis for further discussion and investigation. From left to right, options A to C – click to enlarge:
The initial site appraisal and financial appraisal looked at a 100 berth marina with the full complement of storage and maintenance facilities situated on and around the Cushowen site at the most northern end of the Harbour
lands. Further discussions, both at the workshop and the board have indicated that this may not be the most suitable location, in terms of operational viability and in commercially realising the assets of the site. (left diagram)
Option 2: Develop Marina beside existing Dunnes site
This option starts to free up more land for leisure-based activity and development options. This option would necessitate agreement on the lease with T-Met or be part of a longer term plan post 2021. This option also allows for additional pontoon berths at the Cushowen site for larger vessels and allows the storage, maintenance and boat lifting facilities to be positioned at the top end of the site, this releasing more land for re-development. It also permits a more strategic approach to the development and the ability to bring in periphery sites in public and private ownership as indicated in he centre diagram.
Option 3: Develop Marina on existing Dunnes site
Option 3 takes the principals of Option 2 another stage further and is the most ambitious of the three. It positions the marina on the existing Dunnes site. Again, this would require a partnership with Dunnes and re-location of the existing store, perhaps to one of the new retail developments in the town centre. The advantages of this option are three fold. Firstly, it further optimises the land for redevelopment, both within the existing site boundary and in the surrounding area. Secondly, it provides a possible solution to the navigation of the old bridge by incorporating a lough gate and thirdly, it goes the furthest in realising the ambition of creating a “River Town” where the harbour lands and the town centre are fully integrated. This will have positive economic benefits for the commercial viability of the harbour itself and the wider town and region. Studies have shown that the most successful marina developments are those which have the best linkages to the town they serve.
Clearly there are a number of delivery issues which the Harbour Commissioners are well aware of including clarity and certainty about future ownership of the harbour lands, the future direction of the Port’s maritime activities, future land use directions and the necessity of partnership working. Nevertheless, we hope this short strategic exercise has helped to raise awareness of the broader issues around the future of the harbour.