‘No alternative’ venue for funfair in Carrickfergus, councillors told
Mid and East Antrim Borough Council is to reconsider the possibility of Carrickfergus hosting a funfair after an objection was raised at a committee meeting.
Speaking at a remote meeting of the council on Monday evening, DUP Alderman Billy Ashe MBE said he wished to raise an issue over a proposition about turning down future funfairs in the town.
Ald Ashe said he had no difficulty about turning down a funfair because of Covid. However, he said, the issue of directing funfairs to out of town venues is “potentially detrimental and will have a detrimental effect on footfall and the economy of Carrickfergus town centre”.
“As a seaside town, we need to attract events to bring people into the town centre to support our town centre businesses. I believe it brings into question the work this council has pioneered through the Carrickfergus Regeneration Investment Partnership and limits the potential for City Deal (read more here).
“I believe we should be reverting back to the proposition that Councillor Collins originally put that each case be considered on a case by case basis.”
Alliance Cllr Noel Williams said that the issue had been debated for over an hour at the council’s Direct Services Committee meeting last month.
He added that councillors had come to a “very good conclusion and compromise”.
“It was not that they were directed out of town. The officers were asked to see if they could establish some other appropriate accommodation or area within the town but certainly not taking the carpark for four weeks or possibly eight weeks.”
Ald Ashe raised the matter as councillors were discussing accuracy of minutes from last month’s Direct Services Committee.
Alliance Cllr Danny Donnelly pointed out that no discussion should be taking place on minutes except for accuracy.
“I believe the minutes were accurate. I believe Cllr Ashe was going off on a different tangent. The minutes were accurate. We are supposed to be discussing the accuracy of the minutes. So I propose we move on.”
Chief executive Anne Donaghy said that officers were to examine the original funfair site and if there were any other options.
“To date, we could not identify any other options and will take it on a case by case basis and determine if there is another alternative but from an early point of view it does not look like there is.
“We have not been able to identify anything at this stage. We will wait till the next application arrives and will continue to look for alternatives.”
Cllr Donnelly questioned if the accuracy of the minutes was being discussed.
TUV Cllr Timothy Gaston asked if it was not customary practice that if anything raised out the minutes, the “only avenue for council” was for it to be put back to committee for further consideration and that standing orders haven’t changed.
DUP Ald Tommy Nicholl, who has been a councillor for 40 years, said he believed that a decision by a committee would come to council for adoption or otherwise “depending on how council saw fit” and council has the right to change its mind at a full council meeting.
DUP Cllr Ald Paul Reid said it was “at the discretion of the mayor”.
The Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Cllr Peter Johnston, said that committee minutes come to council for ratification.
Cllr Johnston indicated that if Ald Ashe is happy with the chief executive’s clarification, this could be included in the minutes or the matter could be returned to the committee.
Ald Ashe proposed that the matter should go back to the committee and a “proper recommendation brought forward along the lines whereby we won’t be seeking to exclude the carpark as a venue in the future”.
Deputy Mayor Ulster Unionist Cllr Andrew Wilson said it was his understanding that, on this occasion, the funfair was not to go ahead but to look at other options and not to rule anything in or out.
Carrick Ulster Unionist Cllr Robin Stewart said that as someone who has two businesses in the town, the Castle carpark should “in no way be ruled out”.
Seconding the proposal, he added: “I just can’t believe we are even talking about this.”
Cllr Williams went on to say that at the Direct Services meeting, Covid-19 was an issue and the town centre was “on its knees before Covid and is not doing any better now”.
“We would not approve that particular funfair and officers would look at possible alternatives for staging future funfairs.”
The chief executive stated: “In terms of alternatives, there are no alternatives that is very obvious to anyone. The nature of a funfair from an economic point of view is to bring business to the town centre – that is its purpose to bring entertainment and to bring footfall to the town centre.
“There is no alternative to the carpark. We have no other venue in the town centre that we can use.”
In response, the Mayor stated: “I think it is wise that it goes back to committee.”
Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter
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