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Fears for North Coast tourism as Waterworld under threat of closure by debt-ridden council

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Waterworld in Portrush could close, saving around £80,000 a year

Waterworld in Portrush could close, saving around £80,000 a year

Waterworld in Portrush could close, saving around £80,000 a year

The financial woes of Causeway Coast and Glens Council could damage the North Coast's tourist industry, it has been claimed.

The council, which is in almost £70m of debt, is due to meet next week to rubber-stamp a series of controversial proposed measures aimed at bringing its books back into the black.

These include closing the Waterworld complex at the same time as the future of nearby Barry's Amusements remains unclear.

Barry's, which has entertained children and adults alike for more than 90 years, is currently up for sale with no word yet that a buyer has been secured.

However, as the council slips deeper into debt, it has been forced to consider a range of cost-cutting measures.

As well as shutting Waterworld, it is also considering reducing access to arts centres and exhibitions, cutting the maintenance of some forest tracks, a reduction in staffing of events and a reduction in the summer events programme in resort towns.

A document put together by the council outlining the proposed efficiencies also states that it is considering a reduction of printed literature for overseas marketing and the removal of the council's What's On Guide for 2020.

It is also planning to reduce the amount of council engagement with local business to help develop the local economy and promote it as a tourist destination.

While these measures are expected to save in the region of £20,000, the report has warned that it will "reduce promotion of the area as a viable visitor destination to domestic and out of state markets".

Commenting on the proposal to shut Waterworld, the council document said it expects to result in an annual saving of £80,000.

However, explaining the impact on the general public, it said closure of Waterworld would result in "no significant indoor council operated leisure provision in Portrush".

It continued: "Private operators exist however some doubt over future of Barry's Amusements".

East Londonderry SDLP MLA John Dallat hit out at the proposals and said the local economy will suffer if the proposals get the green light.

"The area is heavily reliant on tourism but the council has failed in its tourism strategy in that it is too reliant on events, so obviously if they start to cut those events, there will be an impact," said Mr Dallat.

"There is no real infrastructure behind the area, and the council has been extremely poor by failing to give planning approval to a number of hotels which would have allowed them to focus on conferences. They have also made a mistake in not funding the ferry at Magilligan, which would have attracted a lot of international visitors into the area.

"They do need to take some short-term measures, although there is no doubt that they will impact on tourism in the area, but ultimately, they need to be looking at ways to make tourism in the area more sustainable."

A row has erupted over how to make the necessary savings, with councillors arguing over the implementation of parking charges and a significant increase in rates also on the cards for householders.

The council was due to make a decision on the matter during the week, but it was deferred until this Wednesday.

There have been concerns that Portrush airshow may also be axed as a result of the financial difficulties.

However, DUP councillor John McAuley denied this is the case.

He said the financial viability of the event was already in doubt after the main attraction last year, the Red Arrows, pulled out.

He said it is imperative that the council ensures that if the airshow goes ahead in future years that it ensures that it includes aerial displays from the likes of the Red Arrows.

Speaking ahead of this week's crunch council meeting, he continued: "Going forward, we will have extremely tough and no doubt unfavourable decisions to make in order to restore the organisation to a sound financial state. This will require teamwork between everyone in the council and elimination of the current cherry-picking opportunities by individuals and party groups for self-interest and favourable headlines in their own areas.

"Councillors need to set their personal agendas to one side and solely concentrate on the task in hand, instead of grabbing headlines for personal gain.

"We are fully supportive of openness and transparency, but allegations by some sections of the chamber and in the media are just irresponsible and counter-productive at this stage in an environment where relations between many are already nothing short of toxic."

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