Committee Chair Speaks Out About The Ardglass Development Process
THE continuing debate in Ardglass surrounding the £1.5 million marina is more than just a tussle over the ownership of the marina said the Chairperson of Ardglass Development Association, Mary McCargo.
Speaking exclusively to Down News, she said that the fundamental issue was one about “the future of the village itself. “
In explaining the very complex history of the community project that ADA believes has gone off the rails, Mrs McCargo said: “ADA, formerly the Ardglass and District Development Association, received funding for a marina back in 1994. It is our understanding that this was to build a flagship project for the regeneration of the village and surrounding area of benefit under the control of ‘ADDA’.
“It seems that the apparent ownership of the marina has been an unresolved issue but we are now in a position to critically and seriously question the validity of the entitlement the marina as our legitimate community flagship.
“ADDA was formed back in 1991 and was given the trust of the people of Ardglass to unfold a regeneration strategy and it simply failed. It was meant to have formed an area-based integrated rural development approach within the then principles of the Northern Ireland Rural Development Strategy.
“However, successive attempts by three chairpersons to correct this faltered, but now with the availability of the freedom of information (FOI) and other lines of serious inquiry, we are confident that this matter can finally be put back on a proper footing for the benefit of all the people of Ardglass. The development process needs to be re-built”.
Speaking candidly, Mrs McCargo explained that she would like to see good community relations prevail in Ardglass. She said: “It is not our intention to attack directors of Phennick Cove Development, but on the contrary we are more than happy to talk to them in our role as a development group about these concerns, However, the doors seem closed for any dialogue. Instead, four of our members are facing a legal process initiated by directors of Phennick Cove Developments which we cannot discuss publicly. We are awaiting on the matter to move forward pending reports from the Public Prosecutors Office. But it is fair to say that being questioned in Bangor Police Station for a very lengthy period is an uncomfortable business, but which the four of us have endured. A proper dialogue would have been much easier.
“So, for the past year we have been engaged in this inquiry, and at times it has been painfully slow but we have stuck at it. And we have enlisted the help of two local politicians to help us further our aims and make representations to the various agencies.
“To date we have talked to several key legal and government bodies and the most important process being the case running with the NI Charities Commission who has called Phennick Cove Developments, currently registered with Companies House as a company, to register as a charity. We await the outcome of this decision in due course.
“Further, I should say that while the people of Ardglass look on at other fishing communities such as Kilkeel and see their progress at community and regeneration levels, Ardglass appears stuck. But we have an initial strategy for moving this whole process forward and this involves engaging one of Northern Ireland’s top consultancies in this field. This process will take time but it will ultimately deliver a proper and fully-working development process in our area for Ardglass, one in which people have confidence in and one that will be fully engaged in and by the community. We must deal with the decline that is setting into our village.
“And quite simply, we as current members of ADA will be more than happy to hand this process over in good health in due course to the wider community for its full participation. But that depends on the people of Ardglass too becoming involved finally in their own future. We believe the regeneration process should be run on a similar basis as that of the Portaferry model, which was running back in the Nineties and is very successful today. In Portaferry, there is a community association which links to a company with a property and development agenda. And the people of the conmunity have confidence in this set-up. There is no reason why an accountable, transparent, fair and democratic system such as this cannot work in Ardglass. We could create a number of jobs with many untold social, economic and environmental benefits. From the mid-nineties we really have lost all of that impetus and focus.
“We are pressing the right buttons and trying to do the right things. Much of this cannot be in the public domain given the nature of what we are doing. But the public can be rest assured that we want a vibrant, fair and prosperous and happy community for all. We believe that this can be achieved but integrating the marina back to where it should have been in the first place.
“That is the only show in town. The original process may have stuck or even failed, but in the final analysis, ADA has a responsibility that is has to discharge and that is exactly what we are doing. But there will be no quick fixes.
“ADA will update the people of Ardglass when and if we get some positive movement in this process. There are no short cuts, only proper procedures and that is the road we are travelling on. We want to unlock the potential for Ardglass once and for all.
“We hope the people of Ardglass will understand this, and be patient. Our community and businesses are suffering quite a lot on account of the recession, poor fishing opportunities, and the lack of inward investment. We believe much more can be done to improve the lives of people here and we will very soon explain some of the ideas that are emerging, but in the final analysis, we need a new process, with a new proper community consultation, and that is what we want to deliver in Ardglass. It will all be on the table and a new community strategy will be in place.
“But we must first of all get over the problems regarding the marina issue. It is the elephant in the room. Our door is open to all, and in the meantime we will continue a number of programmes we are involved with. The clock is ticking and the people of Ardglass deserve better.
“We will eventually get involved in real strategic planning and agree on the way forward for our community. A strategy, as a means to action, can always go off the rails. But it is the job of those responsible for it to keep it nosing in the right direction when it does veer off. There is a huge amount that Ardglass could tap into when this new community process kicks off. We hope that we have the support of the whole community in this.
“The reason this issue has taken so long to properly address is that key information is now coming to light after many years. A number of agencies have not been overly helpful, but we are now content with the information we have generated as being relevant to our key aim which is to turn Ardglass round for the benefit of all. “
Mrs McCargo explained that there will be regular information releases as and when necessary over the summer.