The official opening of mini golf at Bentra is another welcome step in the town’s regeneration, according to Councillor Isobel Day.
Reflecting on projects undertaken and challenges that lie ahead with the new super-council just two months away, the chair of Whitehead Regeneration Partnership also expressed the hope that a long term solution could be found for Blackhead Path, where there is a rockfall problem.
Councillor Day told the TIMES: “Carrickfergus Borough Council have improved the state of the bunkers and the drainage at the Bentra Golf Course and work is ongoing to keep the course in good order.
“An eagerly awaited 18-hole ‘crazy golf’ course adjacent to Bentra is due to open – enquiries have already been made about birthday parties and it is bound to be cheaper than taking 20 youngsters bowling, but just as much fun.
“The installation of three pieces of public art along Blackhead Path met with mixed reactions – they are a bit like Bovril, people either love them or hate them. The path got a bit of a facelift for the railings and shelters along with a resurfaced carpark.
“Temporary repairs were carried out after a landslip, but unfortunately more damage occurred and an exercise is currently being carried out to see what needs to be done to make the path safe for the future, rather than ‘quick fixes’. A long term solution will obviously be expensive and the new council will need to look into funding options (hopefully!).”
Councillor Day was keen to stress the community input to the regeneration initiative.
“Whitehead has a great community spirit as evidenced by the success of many diverse groups in the village, of which the Community Association, Brighter Whitehead, the Whitehead Wombles, the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland and Genesis are but a few.
“In the past few years Carrickfergus Borough Council, along with the Whitehead Regeneration Partnership and GROW South Antrim, have put together many projects to enrich the Whitehead ‘experience’.
The Regeneration Partnership was set up comprising councillors and community representatives and through it priorities were set and funding was sought for the many elements now completed.
“Along with Doagh and Toome, the Living Memories project involved people from the three villages being interviewed about times gone by in their local area, and this resulted in the production of a DVD, a book and exhibition displays,” Councillor Day continued.
“Two phases of shop front improvements have greatly enhanced the appearance of the village, as did the floral scheme which provided hanging baskets and planters. Whitehead was again very successful in the Britain in Bloom competition.
“Sporting facilities have been upgraded with the expansion of one of the playing fields to meet IFA (Irish Football Association) standards, provision of dugouts and completely refurbished changing rooms for the Whitehead Eagles.
“A Heritage and Wellbeing Trail, including navigational finger posts, has been established and outside gym equipment has been installed along Blackhead Path, in the new and very popular play park and in the Diamond Jubilee Wood.”
The Alliance representative also drew attention to a number of elements still in progress.
“The old toilet block at the recreation grounds had been demolished and work is soon to start on new toilets attached to Castleview Pavilion. There are also plans to enhance the War Memorial. These were very well received by members of the Whitehead Branch of the Royal British Legion and Brighter Whitehead.”
Acknowledging that the support of local government is key to further development, Councillor Day concluded: “Ongoing events such as the Easter Monday Road Race and the increasingly popular Victorian Street Fair continue to be organised by Whitehead Community Association, with sponsorship from CBC (Carrickfergus Borough Council), and it is hoped that these will be able to continue when Mid and East Antrim Council come into being on 1 April 2015.
“As far as the Regeneration Partnership goes we are very much in the hands of the new council. We still have many items on the masterplan which we would like to see started, but Whitehead will remain eligible for Rural Development funding and we so hope that the good work which we have started will be continued.
“Whatever happens with the new council we know that the members of all the many community groups in Whitehead will continue their efforts to make the village a better place to live, work, visit and have fun.”