'Economic boost' from fun fair, says council

Fun fair being assembled at the harbour car park last week.
Fun fair being assembled at the harbour car park last week.

The arrival of a fun fair in Carrickfergus will have "significant economic benefits" for the town, Mid and East Antrim Council has insisted.

The local authority was responding to criticism over the closure of the harbour car park to accommodate travelling amusement park Planet Fun.

The attraction opened last Friday (March 30) and will run until April 15 at seafront location.

The car park itself, which is owned by the council, will be closed until April 23 to facilitate dismantling of the equipment.

Last Tuesday morning, a lack of signage alerting drivers of the closure was highlighted by Noel Williams, chair of the Carrickfergus Town Centre Partnership.

Mr Williams added: "When the council gave permission for this event, was any consideration given to the lengthy period of unavailability for vehicle users?"

Income from the event "could go towards offsetting the charges on some of the other, paid car parks in the town so that people are not inconvenienced", he added.

Meanwhile, management at a town centre hotel queried the extent to which the fair would benefit local traders.

"The fair opens at night when most of the businesses are closed, other than food and beverage outlets, who may well get a turn," said Kirsty Fallis from Dobbins Inn Hotel.

"I have staff members who use this car park regularly and also due to the fact we have no parking on High Street, we direct our visitors to the free car park at the castle. This is not an option for us at present and we have to direct them to the paying car park, depending on when they arrive with us. Most of those that stay with us are not going to attend the funfair, so we do not see the benefit to them; rather, an inconvenience to their stay."

Responding, a spokesperson for Mid and East Antrim Borough Council said: "We are aware of one trader having raised his objection in relation to the short-term closure of the car park, but council is confident the funfair event will provide Carrickfergus and its fantastic traders with a financial boost and showcase the town and our borough to a large number of visitors.

"The event organiser was granted permission from the council to run the Carrickfergus Easter Fairground Festival from March 30 to April 15 2018, inclusive with a maximum lead in time of

seven days prior, as well as a maximum of seven days after the funfair to ensure the efficient and safe removal of equipment.

"It is widely recognised that all day free parking has the unintended consequence of clogging up the car parking supply to town centres, resulting in shopping visitors struggling to secure a parking space, and so discourages economic growth of the town centre.

"Therefore, Council will not be offering paid car parks for free; however, the generous £1 for five hours fee does make staying in Carrickfergus town centre great value for money."

The local authority also responded to allegations that the event was causing "disruption" and "complete upheaval" for nearby residents.

It was claimed that those living near the site were not notified in advance of the fair's arrival, nor of the car park closure.

"Council signage was erected in the area within hours of the application being granted and followed widespread promotion of the funfair over a number of weeks by the organisers," the MEA spokesperson added.

"The decision to grant the funfair organisers approval for the use of the car park was made following a comprehensive review of the application and in line with Council procedure.

"This decision was taken based on the anticipated significant positive economic benefit the attraction will have on Carrickfergus and Mid and East Antrim as a whole, including drawing large numbers of visitors from outside the area over a two-week period."