Bangor is aiming to take a significant step forward on its regeneration journey over the next two months as Ards and North Down Borough Council prepares to submit the outline business case for the Bangor Waterfront Development to the Belfast Region City Deal in October.
The Belfast Region City Deal (BRCD) offers a bespoke package of funding from Westminster to help achieve inclusive economic growth across the Belfast region (six council areas). The Bangor Waterfront Outline Business Case will detail concept proposals for five key regeneration projects with the aim of securing circa £40M from BRCD. The outcome of the bid will be confirmed by the end of 2020 and if successful the Council will contribute a further £20M approximately and the private sector £4M approximately to the project.
The Bangor Waterfront Development is an ambitious proposal to redevelop a two-mile stretch of the seafront (from Skippingstone beach to Ballyholme beach) with the aim of re-establishing Bangor as a thriving town and prime visitor attraction in Northern Ireland. This will provide opportunities for the wider borough as more people choose to explore the area and, particularly, our local coastline.
Ards and North Down Borough Council, along with its consultants AECOM, has been consulting, researching and developing the proposal for 18 months and believes it can help deliver on the vision for Bangor agreed by a range of local stakeholders in 2018. This vision seeks to ‘seamlessly connect the waterfront to the rest of the town and, in so doing, provide a unique range of opportunities for residents and visitors to have their lives and businesses enriched by a mix of public spaces, creative events, activities, attractions and experiences that speak of local stories to a global audience’.
The five projects in the outline business case for BRCD that can be catalysts for this transformation are:
- Public Realm: a significant investment in new and improved public realm and new outdoor facilities along the 2.2mile stretch, making the everyday spaces that people move through as attractive as they can be. This will be aimed at sustainably enhancing Bangor’s coastline in ways that people of all ages can have the opportunity to embrace and enjoy it. Particular attention will be given to Skippingstone Beach (multi-use pods for beach activities, accessibility features, feature lighting/benches), Kingsland (café kiosks, skate park) and Ballyholme (watersports opportunities, feature lighting/surfacing). This complements the Council’s Greenway proposals for Kinnegar to Donaghadee, part of a network of traffic-free pathways around Northern Ireland.
- Bangor Marina: during the consultations, many comments were received on how important it would be to open this space up, making it easier to enjoy the views. The proposals recommend redeveloping Bregenz House with a mixed-use development featuring iconic and high-quality architecture, to help deliver this. The upper floors of this new, stylish building will be purposed for attractions such as bars, restaurants, an artisan corner and roof garden. The building will also feature a public deck offering views across the marina.
- Pickie Family Fun Park: Already in the top 10 of family tourist attractions in Northern Ireland, Pickie will be enhanced with the development of new all-weather attractions for both children and young adults, and feature landscaping so it better integrates with the new public realm along the coastline. An extension to the Pickie Puffer (train ride), that will take visitors from Pickie to the Queen’s Parade area, is also part of the proposals.
- Kingsland/Ballyholme Yacht Club and Water Sports Centre: the proposals identify the Kingsland peninsula as a state-of-the-art destination for sports, accommodation and relaxation. At its heart is Ballyholme Yacht Club (BYC), which has been identified as the preferred location within Northern Ireland for major sailing and water sports events by the Royal Yachting Association. The redevelopment of BYC would provide Bangor with a world class facility for water sports and the ability to host international events. Supporting this, it is proposed to enhance the area with tourism accommodation pods, café kiosks and a skate park (now an Olympic sport) set in landscaped gardens. There is also potential for a small cluster of high-quality residential developments to the south of the area.
- The Music Hub: the research phase highlighted the important role Bangor and the wider borough has in music creation and production through influencers ranging from Van Morrison and Snow Patrol to Foy Vance and Hannah Peel. Independent charity, Open House, has ambitious plans to regenerate Bangor Court House as a permanent home for the Open House Festival and a much-needed multi-purpose venue serving the town. Through grants and crowdfunding activity, Open House had secured the funds for their plans, which we can describe as Phase 1. Having considered a range of options for a music hub as part of the Waterfront Development, we are proposing further developing and building on the Open House plans to create a Phase 2. This will see the capacity of the building double in size to include additional event and performance spaces and creative workspaces that will further ensure the sustainability of the venue as a significant music and creative hub for the borough.
Further details and illustrative maps/images can be viewed at www.ardsandnorthdown.gov.uk/BangorWaterfront.
Welcoming the plans, Mayor of Ards and North Down, Councillor Trevor Cummings said:
“Bangor has great potential. We need to build on its strengths, particularly its leisure and cultural assets, high-quality environment and accessibility, to deliver sustainable regeneration. Through the funding offered by the Belfast Region City Deal, we have the potential to kick start Bangor’s regeneration journey with the Waterfront Development. The proposals are exciting and forward-looking and having engaged extensively we are confident they will be attractive to residents, visitors, businesses and investors.”
He continued: “I would stress that these are proposals, rather than confirmed final plans. Our next step is to submit them to BRCD for consideration. We hope to have confirmation of BRCD’s financial contribution by the end of 2020. This will allow us, during 2021/22, to develop full business cases for each of the five key projects. This will include the development of detailed designs, securing planning approval and further public consultation. Subject to financial/project approvals and planning permission, work ‘on the ground’ will begin in 2023 (phased) with the projects delivered over a 5 to 7-year period.”
Wayne Hemingway of Hemingway Design is part of the design team working on the Waterfront Development and commented:
“I was struck immediately on coming to Bangor by the beauty of the coastline and the potential in the town. Even before COVID, there was a generational shift towards people spending time exploring their local area, particularly coastal resorts. The current restrictions on travel provide a fantastic opportunity for towns like Bangor to really start selling themselves to a domestic audience.
“In designing the Waterfront Development, our research indicated that a series of attractions will offer more sustainable and inclusive benefits for Bangor than a single iconic attraction – particularly for those who live and work in the town. As such, when you look at the proposals, you will see enhancements right along the two-mile stretch of coastline; enhancements that will make it a true voyage of discovery for people of all ages and which will appeal to foodies, the culturally curious, sport lovers, walkers and especially those who enjoy a stunning and unique backdrop.
“I can speak for the wider team in saying it has been a great privilege to work on this project to date and to meet with so many local people who are passionate about Bangor. We hope, and believe, these proposals do justice to what you told us you wanted for your town.”