PLANS for a £13 million extension at The Gobbins are “continuing apace” despite the coronavirus pandemic, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council says.
Forming part of the Belfast Region City Deal, The Gobbins Phase II project is underpinned by a strategic mission to establish The Gobbins as one of Northern Ireland’s top 10 paid attractions by 2033.
As well as addressing operational, health and safety and capacity restrictions, the project will unlock the potential of The Gobbins, significantly increasing capacity and making it a more complete and enjoyable visitor experience.
An ingress structure will be delivered to connect the existing coastal path with the current cliff top path, allowing visitors to access the coastal pathway from the clifftop, taking in the magnificent views of the Antrim coast.
A new ‘Welcome Hub’ building connected to the ingress structure will include much-needed amenity facilities for visitors, which are not available at The Gobbins site at present.
This building will act as the starting point for both the coastal and cliff-top path, which will be extended to Heddles Port, doubling its length to 1.5miles.
The proposed £13 million Phase II investment also includes the establishment of a new 360° Virtual Reality (VR) tour of The Gobbins coastal path and clifftop path, which will be made available at the existing Visitor Centre and will cater for groups of up to 10 people in a shared immersive space.
This all-weather facility will service a new target audience and cater for those unable to undertake the tour, due to physical ability, apprehension or simply a lack of time, or it may be used in part as a precursor to the tour.
Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, council officers and elected members have continued to progress the development of a comprehensive Outline Business Case (OBC) for the project, intended for submission to the Treasury later this year.
According to Councillor Gregg McKeen, the OBC clearly articulates a compelling list of benefits to be derived from the project that will be “truly transformational” to the Borough’s tourism offering.
“The Gobbins Phase II project is aimed at re-establishing the Gobbins coastal walkway using the existing path on the rock ledges alongside the creation of two brand-new rope bridges, one of which will be three times longer than the bridge at Carrick-a-Rede, securing the site as a sustainable and viable attraction,” he explained.
Councillor Robert Logan added: “Ultimately, this will enable us to create a world-class, authentic visitor attraction that will help grow domestic and international visitor numbers to Mid and East Antrim. We anticipate that this will lead to increased overnight stays and out of state visitors, and leverage additional investment into the overall visitor experience in the Borough.
“This is just one of three exciting projects planned for the borough in the coming years through the Belfast Region City Deal. This initiative is vital to our ambitious vision and blueprint for a vibrant economy in Mid and East Antrim, and Northern Ireland.”
The regeneration of Carrickfergus and the creation of an advanced manufacturing innovation and inspiration hub at the St Patrick’s site in Ballymena are also proposed to receive funding alongside the Gobbins through the Belfast Region City Deal.
The deal sets out a vision to create 20,000 new and better-paid jobs across the region’s growth sectors; pushing the ‘fast-forward’ button on inclusive economic growth and ensuring opportunities are accessible across all of our communities. It will also improve infrastructure, digital connectivity, visitor attractions and innovation hubs; and deliver a major skills and employability programme.
For more information about the City Deal, visit: https://www.midandeastantrim.gov.uk/business/economic-development/belfast-region-city-deal