Portaferry Renewal: Ropewalk Scheme

Updated 20 August 2021

At its July 2021 meeting the Council agreed to undertake further design work and costings in order to assess fully the viability of a possible alternative option (no 2) in relation to the Ropework Scheme.

The Regeneration Unit is working to progress this, but the process is still ongoing and requires another few weeks to complete.  It is anticipated that the findings will be presented to Council at its meeting on 29 September 2021 for a final decision as to which proposal Members wish to proceed with.

In these circumstances, the Council has written to the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, who are administering the grant funding, requesting an extension of time to avail of the grant funding.  DAERA has agreed a 2-month extension until the end of May 2022. 

Further detail is provided in a report being brought to the Council meeting on Wednesday 25 August, which can be accessed below. 

Item 19: Portaferry Ropewalk Improvement Scheme (pdf)

 

Update 29 July 2021

At the meeting of Members of the Council on 28 July 2021 it was agreed that Council would undertake further design and costings in order to access fully the viability of a possible alternative option 2. This will be considered by Elected Members at the Council meeting of 25th August 2021. 

The Council report and related appendices can be accessed below:  

Item 21: Portaferry Rope Walk Reprt (pdf)

Benefits of the Scheme

The proposed Ropewalk Scheme will provide community and economic benefit for Portaferry. It represents significant investment in the regeneration of Portaferry with the total project cost of approximately £475,000 including Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme Village Renewal funding of £350,000. 

This scheme will benefit local residents and visitors to the village. It is set to improve on and restore the Ropewalk area of Portaferry, providing much needed coach and car parking infrastructure for the village. The scheme will also improve the function and safety of the area and accommodate tourism, as agreed within the Village Renewal Plan with its vision to regenerate Portaferry.

Ropewalk Scheme Details

The proposal includes the following enhancements:    

  • Additional coach parking, coach turning and car parking.  This will overcome current issues with car parking, particularly coach parking and the Health and Safety issues with coaches.
  • Installation of a footpath: this will provide a safe walking route through the car park for all pedestrians, in particular those using pushchairs and wheelchairs. 
  • Refurbishment of the disused amenity block to provide three toilets – 2 x unisex and 1x disabled.  This will see the removal of the one existing portaloo. 
  • New lighting scheme: the pathway into the town from the top of the car park will be formalised and includes the installation of bollard lighting,  better linking the village centre with the car park and visitor facilities. 
  • Installation of CCTV to discourage antisocial behaviour. 
  • New NIE connection/supply to future proof the site. 
  • Installation of an art piece (turbine) celebrating the area's marine links

Layout, Trees and Wildlife

Ards and North Down Borough Council, working with its professional team of architects and quantity surveyors, has spent significant time reviewing the layout of the scheme to ensure we remove as few trees as possible. However, none of the options presented and/or under consideration for the Portaferry Ropewalk Improvement Scheme can go ahead without the removal of a number of trees.

The trees being removed are all within the vicinity of the current car park. None are within the actual wood, and approximately 50 trees within the car park area are being retained.  To mitigate this, Council will replant more trees than are removed: these will be semi-mature trees.  Council plan to replant 20 native trees within the scheme, as well as develop a new 0.5ha woodland area at a site on the Cloughey Road, Portaferry. 

In line with section 127 of the Planning Act (Northern Ireland) 2011, trees within a designated Conservation Area are protected. Therefore, Council made a number of applications to the planning department to carry out works to 14 trees within this location. They were dealt with under ‘Works to Trees Application’. The Planning Department advised that they had no objection to any of the proposed works and decision letters were issued in each of the applications. 

An independent ecological survey in respect of our duties under the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 – namely protection of bats and birds, was carried out in May/June this year.  The Ecological Survey conducted by Blackstaff Ecology concluded that the proposed project would have limited impact on roosting bats or the local bat population in general.

The professional ecologist has also carried out an initial assessment and confirmed there is no evidence of red squirrels, pine martens or badgers residing in or around these trees.  He further noted that the habitats are generally of low conservation value as the area around the trees consists primarily of amenity grassland that is subject to regular mowing.  None of the land affected is recorded as priority habitat by NIEA.  The Council has spoken to NIEA's Wildlife Officer who is content with the actions taken to date.      

Sustainability

This Council is committed to a sustainable future and is conscious of its challenges to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. As outlined in the Council’s Corporate Plan 2020-2024, the most pressing issue has risen to prominence for our Borough in recent years is sustainability.

Three key sustainability-related pillars have been identified as challenges for the Borough:

Environmental sustainability: Increased awareness and focus, globally and locally, on issues including climate change, carbon footprint and the impact of waste.
Economic challenges: The Borough’s economy has seen low growth in recent years, creating financial pressure on local businesses. This also results in low growth in the available pool of business ratepayers – putting greater pressure on existing businesses and householders to share the rates burden. The result is a stagnant income from rates, which puts pressures on the sustainability of Council services, resources and investment in the Borough;
Social changes: This includes increased demands on services and local challenges such as demographic changes as our population ages and also local pockets of deprivation.

Sustainability is not solely about environmental issues, but must also include economic and social considerations. A viable economy depends on a healthy society, both of which rely on a sustainable environment. Sustainability occurs when all three work in balance with each other. The Council’s improvement plans for Portaferry were made holistically and in an attempt to find that balance.

A key focus of our corporate commitment to the environment  is to improve the biodiversity of our green spaces, including the promotion of tree planting. The Council has developed a Tree and Woodland Strategy 2021-2032, with ambitious plans to undertake significant woodland tree planting across the Borough.

The vision is to increase accessible woodland from its current 7% to the NI average of 10.3% by 2025 and to the UK average of 12.1% by 2032. This will see Council planting 160,000 native trees, 1 for each resident of the Borough, as well as developing a series of community orchards.


Updated 1 July 2021

Council has asked infrastructure consulting firm Aecom to review both layouts (the Council’s and the alternative proposal) and give their expert advice on proposed solutions. As part of this we are undertaking a further tree survey to the required Bs5837 2012 specification, including an arboriculture impact assessment and tree constraints plan.

This new review will be based on the assumption that we may not be able to accommodate as many additional parking spaces as previously hoped.

However, it must be noted that the grant funding is based on an additional 54 spaces. Any significant reduction (more than 10%) would require approval from DAERA, with no guarantees that any new proposal would successfully receive the level of funding required.

To comply with the funding timelines construction work must start late August/early September, with a 20-week construction programme. The contractor has confirmed they can pause the start date until then, and have confirmed their costs for doing so, which can be accommodated within the current budget. Although it should be noted that a delay may increase the overall construction costs, particularly due to the current inflation challenges. In the current Letter of Offer for the grant funding the work is to be completed by end of November 2021, however Council may be able to ask for an extension to the end of January 2022.