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Donaghadee Harbour Recreation Area Proposals Receive Mixed Response

21st February 2021
North Down Borough Council plans to create within the harbour a 'recreational area' (in blue) outside of the inner portion but still within harbour limits
North Down Borough Council plans to create within the harbour a 'recreational area' (in blue) outside of the inner portion but still within harbour limits

The opinion is divided in Donaghadee about the Ards and North Down Borough Council plans to create within the harbour a 'recreational area' outside of the inner portion but still within harbour limits. The recreational area would be a safe area for non-motorised craft and swimmers to use, without fear of collisions with motorised craft.

Donaghadee Harbour lies on the north County Down coast and is a picturesque port in which the lifeboat Saxon has its home along with several boats on moorings and some small working fishing and tourist vessels. It has always been an irresistible attraction for those keen on jumping into and swimming in the sheltered (in most wind directions) waters.

At present, as well as those swimming within the harbour, many use the slipway to the west. The recreational area would be clearly identified on signage and demarcated by buoys throughout the bay.

Donaghadee Harbour lies on the north County Down coast and is a picturesque portDonaghadee Harbour lies on the north County Down coast and is a picturesque port

The Council says that all its harbours currently have restrictions in place to prohibit swimming within the inner harbour area where vessels may be manoeuvring. However, every summer the Harbour Master must continually challenge people who are either unaware of the restrictions or unwilling to abide by them. Donaghadee has a considerable number of daily kayakers and paddle boarders and the interestingly named Chunky Dunkers sea swimmers' group, who for the most part operate outside of the inner harbour and officers are keen to find a balance between the necessary safety considerations and the encouragement of these healthy activities.

It could be said that swimming in a restricted area isn't the same as the fun to be had jumping into the deep harbour!

In preparation for summer, officers wish to increase general awareness of the restrictions and hazards with the introduction of new, improved signage at all Council harbours. The signage will highlight potential hazards to harbour users and list all restrictions and prohibitions, such as swimming. It will also show the exact location using the "what3words" system.

Councillor Janice McArthur represents Donaghadee on the Council. Her attention was drawn to the fact that nowhere in the proposal does it mention that the recreational area dries out at low tide she replies, " Yes, that's a given.

However, people can, if competent, use the area beyond this. The key thing is that they do not use the working harbour space. The designated area, although tidal, is also a safe zone". She continued, "The use of paddleboards is becoming increasingly popular too so it provides a safe recreational area for this to take place. The proposal has received considerable support locally but Council officers will consult with stakeholders".
Regarding the slipway which is used by the sailing club, it was confirmed that craft launching from the jetty would have precedence.

And resident Robert Neill is cautious. " Swimmers really only go in at high tide (ie the Chunky Dunkers) so at least they are protected - don't think it will look very attractive".

John Caldwell, Hon Secretary of the Donaghadee Community Development Association, said, "The Association supports the idea. We want Donaghadee to be safely enjoyed by everyone, and the harbour and seafront are very popular with swimmers, kayakers and sailors. The harbour does, of course, need to continue to operate as a harbour and zoning off an area for recreational use strikes an appropriate balance between this and the needs of those wishing to take part in activities other than sailing."

Martin Strain of the Chunky Dunkers swim group says that " at this very early point we would give it a cautious welcome. Fundamental matters such as its precise area, how and who is going to 'police' it remain important issues that will ultimately determine the success or otherwise of the plan. However, generally speaking, we welcome any input or recognition by the Council that there is a burgeoning interest in water sports of all kinds in our town and that as ratepayers we are entitled to some Council funded facilities".

Betty Armstrong

About The Author

Betty Armstrong

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Betty Armstrong is Afloat and Yachting Life's Northern Ireland Correspondent. Betty grew up racing dinghies but now sails a more sedate Dehler 36 around County Down.

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