Rubble dumped on Portrush beach 'poses danger to children'
Children at one Northern Ireland's most popular beaches risk injury from sharp-edged pieces of rubble buried in sand, a tourism expert says.
The rubble, which is believed to have been buried by a contractor repairing Portrush promenade six years ago, has been resurfacing for years at the East Strand, to the concern of local residents.
While some of the waste has been removed by Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, the remaining pieces and the continuing danger of more resurfacing at the beauty spot must be dealt with as the summer season approaches, said Lyn Fawcett, a senior lecturer in tourism and hospitality at the Ulster University.
"This all started due to repairs to the promenade along the East Strand years ago, when, instead of taking the rubble away, the builders just buried it in the sand," he said.
"As the sand moves, this stuff keeps resurfacing. Last week I went for a walk and picked up six or seven pieces of broken concrete and gravel.
"A child running along the beach could cut their feet, and a lot of the families here are holidaymakers with young children.
"There have been a lot of people calling for action, and the council have reacted by cleaning up a great deal of the stuff on the surface - but no-one knows how much is still buried beneath."
Mr Fawcett says he feels that the council must seek a permanent solution to the problem as the summer season approaches, to safeguard the north coast's tourism reputation.
"I have three self-catering businesses, and if a family with children was visiting I would recommend that they go to the West Strand instead of the East Strand," he said.
"The situation now is significantly better than it was a few years ago, but the rubble is still there, so it needs to continue to be cleaned. It's an extremely clean beach and this is the only thing polluting it.
"It's particularly important with the summer season approaching - tourism is one of our biggest industries, one of our major assets, and that amount of pollution shouldn't have been allowed to stay there for so long."
Another local resident, who visits the Blue Flag beach daily, said that the rubble was simply being "churned up" rather than removed.
"I walk that beach every day so I was just shocked at the fact that they dumped stuff on a blue flag beach - it's white collar vandalism," said the man.
"There is still plenty of it there; instead of taking it away and disposing of it, it is simply being raked along the whole length of the beach. We won't get a Blue Flag again if this isn't sorted out.
"The tide rarely goes up that far on the beach, so it is definitely not being brought in by the waves. As well as rubble, I have seen bits of tiles with coloured edges that used to be on the promenade, wood and chunks of glass."
A council spokesperson confirmed that the rubble had been dumped six years ago, and that action had been taken against the contractor which did so. They added that it carries out an extensive regular clean-up.
"It is as safe as any beach to use, although the public should always be mindful of sea currents as they enjoy our beautiful coastline," they said.