MLA asks if Gobbins closure was foreseeable

MLA Gordon Lyons
MLA Gordon Lyons

DUP MLA Gordon Lyons has called for action to determine whether the current problems at the Gobbins Cliff Path could have been foreseen.

Described the situation as “extremely disappointing for the area,” Mr Lyons acknowledged local frustration over the ongoing problems at the flagship tourist facility.

“It has the potential to be a major tourist attraction in Northern Ireland against the Causeway and Titanic Belfast, but the closures have not helped the promotion of the facility,” he stated.

“In Larne and the wider East Antrim area there is a real sense of disappointment and frustration. People would like to get more information from council regarding the nature of the work and the costs and I hope that information will be forthcoming.”

Former Mid and East Antrim Borough Council member Mr Lyons, who sat on the Gobbins Steering Group during his time on the council, said he “can’t remember” concerns over a rock fall risk being raised during the planning of the project.

“The first I was aware of any problems was once Storm Frank happened and it had to be closed, it’s my understanding that that was the first time any problems and issues were raised,” he stated.

“The key empahsis is on getting the place open and making sure it stays open but if there is a major amount of work we need to make sure. If those questions weren’t asked they should have been asked and we need to determine whether or not the problems we are now facing could have been foreseen and action taken in the first instance.”

However, Mr Lyons said he believes the council had taken the correct step in closing the facility, and that it can bounce back in the long-term.

“I believe the council is taking the right decision to close it and make sure all the necessary work is done before it opens again. The last thing I want is for it to reopen for a couple of months and close again. I don’t think that not being open now reduces its long-term potential.”

In a statement on the closure, Mayor of Mid and East Antrim Audrey Wales said the 2017 opening date was “not yet known” and was “very much dependent on the approach taken in respect of completing the required work.

“Whilst the timing of the closure period during peak season has been very unfortunate, it has been unavoidable and Council makes no apologies that the safety of visitors to The Gobbins is, and will always be, our first priority,” she added.