Gobbins delay is ‘missed opportunity’

The interactive exhibition at the Gobbins Visitor Centre, Islandmagee.  INLT 13-681-CON
The interactive exhibition at the Gobbins Visitor Centre, Islandmagee. INLT 13-681-CON

The delay in the opening of Larne’s flagship tourist attraction at the Gobbins has been branded “a missed opportunity” by a local councillor.

The historic coastal walk, which has been restored at a cost of £7.5m, was originally scheduled to be unveiled to the public in March.

But the project has faced a number of unforeseen setbacks along the way and the opening date has now been pushed back to July.

And Cllr Gerardine Mulvenna of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council said the delay could cause disappointment for the swathes of tourists who are eager to experience the cliff path for themselves.

At the latest meeting of MEA Council, CEO Anne Donaghy revealed that, following discussions with the contractor, the path was scheduled to open “in the first few weeks of July”.

She added: “I think we have done very well. What I think would be wrong would be not to listen to the contractor.”

Mrs Donaghy also pointed out that a visit by 19 tourism operators to the site on June 24 would be going ahead as planned, and both the community centre play park at the Gobbins Visitor Centre should be opened by May 18.

Speaking to the Times after the meeting, Cllr Mulvenna said: “It is disappointing that the public will not be able to access the path until the start of July, as the tourist season will be in full swing by that point.

“But I realise that we will only get one chance to open this attraction and we have to get it right. It is an incredible achievement and I am excited to for people to experience it.”

When asked to provide an explanation for the delay, a spokesman for MEA Council said: “As with all major capital projects of this scale, the full extent of the path construction required changes along the way in order to maximise the impact of the visitor experience.

“This includes areas which were inaccessible prior to the project starting and required additional infrastructure to create access, and extend the path.”