Blackhead Path to be assessed by Health and Safety Executive

Barriers are to be strengthened at Blackhead Path.  INCT 32-790-CON
Barriers are to be strengthened at Blackhead Path. INCT 32-790-CON

The council has approved a Health and Safety Executive assessment of Blackhead Path with a view to reopening the walk as soon as possible.

Sections of the path have been closed since July 2014 amid concerns over rock falls.

A structural report of the rock face carried out by Ground Check Ltd in February 2014 concluded that the path was “extremely vulnerable” and should be closed until corrective work was carried out.

While the section around the lighthouse was closed off by the former Carrickfergus Borough Council, the public continued to by-pass the fence and access the restricted pathway which had fallen into disrepair.

The council report stated that there were three issues to resolve: the removal of all barriers to give unrestricted access to the whole path provided there is no immediate risk of loose rock fall; the shoring of the pathway along the first section resulting from land slippage and movement and the long-term work to provide netting across all the identified areas of the rock face.

Cllr Mark McKinty said that previous repairs to the path were “stop gap” and short term but were never followed up on, and that council needed to “go to town with this path given the proximity to the Gobbins and the lighthouse and in terms of the general wellbeing of the population.”

“I’m very keen to fix the path up to standard where it can be opened but very keen we don’t leave it there that we try to further develop the path and the experience it provides,” he added.

However, Council Chief Executive Anne Donaghy stressed that there was a “very limited budget” available from the predecessor councils. She said that the council would move to reopen the path and that the HSENI would ensure advice from previous reports would be brought up to date.

Cllr Gregg McKeen said that given the council’s strategy to promote tourism and the link between the Gobbins and Blackhead Path it was “imperative” to reopen the path as soon as possible. Ald Gerardine Mulvenna said that it was important the path be given priority and made safe.

Mrs Donaghy was also granted permission to appoint a geological risk assessor if deemed necessary by HSENI.