A planning application has been approved for improvements to Ramore Head recreational grounds in Portrush worth £2.7 million, including the provision of a new pavilion building, improvements to play areas, leisure areas, and other associated spaces and features.
However, the anticipated area for urban sports has been removed to be replaced by a seating area leading to renewed calls for a skatepark to be built.
Addressing Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council chamber in objection to the planning application, local architect Murray Bell spoke of how everyone “had let local skaters down”.
Mr Bell said; “I want to be clear in these comments that this submission is not an objection to the whole proposal, it is an objection to the evolution, process and final conclusions that have led to a less than satisfactory corner being pushed in the direction of the urban sports, or rather, the skaters being pushed into a literal corner, and this is unacceptable.
“From 2001, I have carried a concern and desire that Causeway Coast and Glens council should have a skate park and the ideal location has been approved three times as the Metropole, twice by Coleraine Borough Council and once by Causeway Coast and Glens council last week, it has not been approved for anywhere else.
“The proposal before you has not been agreed by the local skaters, has not been deemed to be useful by them, and if approved will be an aggressive ‘take it or leave it’ statement by council to the skate community.
“Do you think that a football club would accept a brand-new football pitch with one goal? No.
“Everyone has let the skaters down, and I include myself in that statement. I have not been consistent and persistent enough to see it to fruition.
“In 2001 I wanted the skate park for my three boys, all of whom skate, but are now in their 20’s and starting to move away from the area, unfortunately.
“In my submission, I state that the only way forward as I see it, and to allow work to proceed on behalf of the bowlers, is for the informal seating area to be dropped from the proposal.
“There will, of course, be money saved, and this fund should be banked as a fighting fund for the urban sports future plans, but there needs to be an urgency in this provision for the whole borough, not our focus on this being just being a facility for Portrush on its own.
“The proposal is not agreed and will be an unwarranted distraction from the focus of achieving an excellent urban skate/sport facility for a Causeway Coast and Glens.”
Speaking on behalf of CAUS (Causeway Association of Urban Sports) Jesse Gordon outlined their objection to the planned improvements and the lack of a dedicated urban sports area.
“The design proposals for the recreation grounds simply demonstrate the unsuitability of the size and location for such a scheme and the current proposals highlight the council and design team’s lack of desire to provide an appropriate facility in this area.
“Why were CAUS not involved in the original design? We repeatedly raised concerns that it was simply not fit for purpose – it was too small and dangerous.
“Why did the council approach Freestyle Design (specialist skate park designers) in January 2021 and invite them to Portrush for a site inspection at Ramore Head only for the urban sports park plans to be shelved into an informal seating and recreation area by February 2021?”
The original plans for Ramore Recreation Ground improvements included a small area for urban sports which was subsequently removed.
Jesse continued: “The PACC report stated 766m2 was originally provided for the initial design yet this is much smaller than Station Square in Portrush, which is already a congested area. How was this small area ever considered appropriate from the outset, even as an ‘interim arrangement’?
“In the plans which have been approved, the Agent states that ‘the application site can be used for rollerblades, scooters and skateboards’. The ‘exposed aggregate concrete’ paths around the Recreation Grounds are not usable for urban sports equipment. This is rough ground.
“The informal seating area is not a skatepark or an ‘interim arrangement’ for urban sports, it is a seating area only.”
Most of the Triangle’s skaters and members of CAUS believed Ramore Recreation grounds were always the wrong location for a skatepark with Metropole Park the preferred location.
“This was never our preferred location,” explained Jesse. “Ramore Head is a remote and exposed location which presents a number of issues in terms of all-year-round usage and safety concerns, and this was also backed up by the PSNI.
“The council were always made aware that our preferred location was Metropole Park from the results of a survey carried out by CAUS in 2012/13 and in a previous request for the lease of land.
“CAUS was formed with the aim of approaching the council for an urban sports park and we will continue to do so.
“There is and always has been huge public support for such a facility. This is now a perfect opportunity for such a development at Metropole Park.
“Our vision is to regenerate this under-utilised public space and turn it into an urban sports plaza which urban sports users can freely enjoy but also to have it as a place where local residents and visitors can enjoy, which in turn, will help improve community cohesion.”
Responding to objections, a representative from GM Designs, the agent speaking on behalf of the council’s proposal said: “This proposal seeks to regenerate the existing facilities at Ramore.
“The planners have provided a comprehensive summary with regards to the objections and it complies with all planning requirements.
“We understand the council is now reinvestigating with relevant bodies and groups including CAUS, to provide facilities that are better suited in a desirable location in the town with an urban sports facility at Metropole Park as previously agreed with the former CBC (Coleraine Borough Council).”
The application passed with 14 votes for and one against.