£6.1m Carnfunnock refurbishment to commence in October

Work on a £6.1m refurbishment of Carnfunnock Country Park outside Larne is scheduled to commence in October 2024, visitors to a public consultation event have been told.
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A pre-application community consultation public event took place at Larne Town Hall where plans were on show on Monday (January 29).

When proposed work commences, the visitor centre, playground, caravan park, car parks, walled garden and maze will be shut. A path from the pyramid at the Coast Road entrance linking to the car park at Drains Bay will remain open. The proposed duration of the build is 18 months.

Commenting on the closure, Lindsay Houston, the council’s parks development manager, said: “If we want to invest in our sites and improve our sites, we need to take this time and do it. We can’t do improvements on this scale and not do that. There is no way we can be operational.”

Proposed new facility at Carnfunnock Country Park. Photo: Mid and East Antrim Borough CouncilProposed new facility at Carnfunnock Country Park. Photo: Mid and East Antrim Borough Council
Proposed new facility at Carnfunnock Country Park. Photo: Mid and East Antrim Borough Council

The council says it is keen to hear feedback on the plans from residents and visitors to Carnfunnock before a full planning application is submitted in March. The consultation closes on February 9.

A Proposal of Application Notice (PAN) has been submitted to the council’s planning department for the demolition of the existing visitors’ centre/ amenity block and play park to be replaced with a new adventure play park with inclusive equipment, visitors’ centre with a café and restaurant, multi-function spaces, a park shop, and public toilets.

Kitchen Space

A new amenity block will provide a shower, toilet and changing facilities for the caravan park alongside a communal kitchen space. The lower level will house a café kiosk, toilet facilities for the play park and storage space. It will also accommodate a Changing Places disabled toilet facility.

Visitors view proposals for Carnfunnock Country Park. Pic by Local Democracy Reporting Service.Visitors view proposals for Carnfunnock Country Park. Pic by Local Democracy Reporting Service.
Visitors view proposals for Carnfunnock Country Park. Pic by Local Democracy Reporting Service.

There are also plans for a new BMX pump track and bike jump trail in a site beyond the main car parks. The existing car park at the playground will be removed amid pedestrian safety concerns.

Lindsay went on to say the existing playground has reached the “end of its lifespan”. She noted the current provision has no no accessible play equipment.

“Feedback indicated that the play park is not fit for purpose with a lack of opportunity for parents in wheelchairs,” she noted. She added the new playground will be “a park for everybody”.

The 191-acre site will be redeveloped through the UK Government Levelling Up Fund with 10 per cent “match-funding” by the council. Proposals will be displayed on the council website and at Carnfunnock.

Carnfunnock plans were on display at a public consultation event. Mid and East Antrim Borough CouncilCarnfunnock plans were on display at a public consultation event. Mid and East Antrim Borough Council
Carnfunnock plans were on display at a public consultation event. Mid and East Antrim Borough Council

Seven hundred and seventy-five people have signed an online petition demanding an unequivocal guarantee Carnfunnock Country Park will “remain open at all times during the refurbishment process”.

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“While we welcome improvements to enhance the park’s facilities, we are deeply concerned about the nature of those improvements and the potential access disruptions during this period. Carnfunnock Country Park is more than just a recreational area; it is a lifeline for many,” the Friends of Carnfunnock petition said.

The council stated previously “ongoing recreational access to the country park is included as part of the brief to the design team”.

Carnfunnock proposals. Pic: Mid and East Antrim Borough CouncilCarnfunnock proposals. Pic: Mid and East Antrim Borough Council
Carnfunnock proposals. Pic: Mid and East Antrim Borough Council

“An assurance is in place that the proposal will include recreational access throughout the build period,” Friends of Carnfunnock were told. However this will not include the area “under the control of the successful contractor”.

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter

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