Ardglass Marina Under Spotlight By Charities Commission Following Governance Concerns
Since the opening of Ardglass marina in 1996, there has been a running issue over the legitimacy over its governance.
As a former chairperson of Ardglass Development Association, I must declare my interest in the matter. Ardglass Development Association was formed in 1991 and by 1996, the £1.5million marina was put in place in Ardglass harbour as a flagship for village regeneration. However, the development strategy then appeared to go off track.
I did call a public meeting and try and turn this situation round. I did appeal to the Directors of Phennick Cove Developments and I did meet with the DARD area manager. I constantly was frustrated in my efforts despite advocating good practice in rural and community development and even completing a full-time post-graduate diploma in rural development at QUB Belfast whilst being a member of ADA. Something was radically wrong with the process then, and it is now finally being examined under a new regulatory process. Fundamentally, the integrated area-based development strategy that was envisaged was turned on its head by having conflicting agencies working against each other within Ardglass. The marina in Ardglass was meant to be the flagship for regeneration steered by the Ardglass Development Association.
South Down MLA John McCallister has now come out in support of the Ardglass Development Association’s appeal for help following a long running issue over the governance of Ardglass marina (Phennick Cove Developments). Both himself and Independent Downpatrick Councillor Cadogan Enright were responsible for referring the issue to the Charities Commission.
Cllr Enright last weekend issued a leaflet around homes in Ardglass setting out the problems, and making recommendations. He had been tasked by ADA last June and enlisted the support of John McCallister MLA.
Speaking on the issue, John McCallister said: “I believe these assets should clearly be working for the people of Ardglass. Their cash surplus should be driving redevelopment in the village or used to support other community organisations in Ardglass.
“Despite reminders, Phennick Cove Developments has given no response to my or Cllr Enright’s applications to become ‘Community Interest’ members within Phennick Cove Developments.
“In November 2013, the Charities Commission wrote to Phennick Cove Developments calling them forward to register as a charity. The Commission allows three months for them to gather the information and I understand that they had until 14 March to respond to the Commission. The Charities Commission has not yet received a response and it views failure to cooperate as a serious matter and a reminder has been issued giving them until the end of April to respond.”
ADA Chairperson Appeals For A Resolution Of Long Running Saga Of Marina Governance.
ADA Chairperson Mary McCargo explained: “When the marina in Ardglass was commissioned in 1996 it should have been part of the development process of Ardglass regulated by the then Ardglass and District Development Association (ADDA).
“Phennick Cove Marina veered off at that point becoming unaccountable to ADDA and the people of Ardglass without a mandate and was subsequently operated by a handful of self-elected directors.
“These directors did not have a democratic mandate to take over the marina. Successive approaches by ADDA representatives to DARD and other organisations and the calling of a public meeting also did not succeed in regaining control.
“This matter has persisted until the present day. Ardglass does not have an integrated development strategy and cannot form one because of this ridiculous situation we have been put in particularly by the funders and other agencies.
“We are losing out as a community. We need to create inward investment for Ardglass and create jobs and prosperity. This current situation is a no-win situation. Ardglass has clearly been disadvantaged.
“Once the community contribution for the marina was paid there was supposed to be spin offs for Ardglass community groups and to boost economic life in the village. This never happened. I understand there is £238,000 in the marina account. ADA (it dropped its “and District in 1999) could have used a portion of these funds to help groups lever other funding for the benefit of Ardglass or generally to stimulate economic recovery, improve the built environment or better social life for all in the village. Our flagship has been sunk.
“We are very unhappy about this and we refuse to go away. Our aim is to repair the broken process in Ardglass and ensure that the marina is running more fairly and safely for all users – tourists, visitors and local users including all sections of our community.
“We are saddened that this may have been be perceived as a squabble over money or an attack on personalties. It is not. We are totally honourable in our intentions. We wish to abide by proper development principles – however, things do need to change.
“For that reason we asked Councillor Cadogan Enright to examine the predicament and he along with South Down MLA John McCallister have listened to our complaints. They referred the matter to the Charities Commission. From this, Phennick Cove Developments have been asked by the Commission to register as a charity.
“We will wait and see what happens, and in the meantime, I would ask everyone to please remain respectful in the interest of good neighbourliness.
“It is our wish for the whole process to be repaired and we have already started to put an objective and positive plan in place for this to happen which will be released in due course. We recognise ADA too needs revamped.
“We must move forward and modernise our process of rural, community and economic development. It is stuck back in the 90’s.”
Cllr Enright Says Marina Issue Is At The Core Of Future Of Ardglass
Cllr Cadogan Enright who has been involved in examining the marina issue since June 2013, said: “I have been working closely with John McCallister MLA and the Ardglass Development Association to try and put this process back on track. It is very complex. We have taken the approach that this is basically a problem of governance and have referred it for the regulatory scrutiny of the Charities Commission.
“Ardglass Development Association must reassert its control over the marina as was originally planned given that the funders did award the funds to ADA. This is a fundamental issue for the future prosperity of Ardglass.
“There does ultimately need to be a new team of directors appointed to manage the marina. The new directors should then get a set of audited accounts and ensure the organisation is on a sound footing meeting its charitable objectives within the strategic process of what ADA and the people of Ardglass had expected and agreed.
“The process needs to be fully reset and legitimised. Ardglass has lost many years of opportunity and development on account of this and it is time now that the people of Ardglass were fully involved in the future of their community.
“ADA itself too will need to be revitalised. But we must wait for the adjudication of the Charities Commission to see what will happen.”
Down News asked a director/spokesperson for Phennick Cove Developments to comment but be explained he could not give a statement as there was a police investigation running against four members of ADA adding that a report was to be prepared for the PPS in due course. ADA members also explained they could not comment of this matter as they have been constrained by the police following a ‘complaint’.
Also, Cllr Dermot Curran explained that he did not wish to intervene or comment on this process at this stage but added that he wished that all of the people of Ardglass could work together under one banner and work for the benefit of the village as a whole. He recognised that there were considerable public funding that could be tapped into given the right approach.