Progress made in bid for major multi-million pound upgrade of Co Down harbours

L-R: Alan McCulla of the Anglo-North Irish Fish Producers Organisation (ANIFPO); Fisheries Minister Edwin Poots; and Harry Wick of the NI Fish Producers Organisation (NIFPO).

PLANS to investment £100 million in three Co Down fishing ports has taken another step forward, the Agriculture and Environment minister has said.

Edwin Poots said his department has secured “a significant amount of money” which he said will advance the efforts to significantly upgrade the harbours at Kilkeel, Ardglass and Portavogie.

Visiting Kilkeel on Friday, Mr Poots said the funding will support essential environmental and technical studies to progress the harbour development proposals to the next stage.

Fisheries groups have consistently lobbied for the investment they say is needed to safeguard the future of the industry in the coastal villages.

The major proposal includes a £73m investment at Kilkeel to deepen the harbor in order to facilitate larger vessels.

The economic regeneration plan would see the port established as an Irish Sea marine hub, making it a centre for marine activity activity for things such as aquaculture, leisure boating and boat repair and decommissioning.

The proposals would also see the approach channel at Ardglass deepened, while Portavogie would benefit from a £5m upgrade to its existing harbour and help redevelop abandoned buildings.

“Our fishing vessels and seafood processing industries are vital to the Northern Ireland economy creating an annual turnover of £135million and supporting 1,550 jobs,” said Edwin Poots.

“For the future of these industries it is vital we move ahead with these major developments. If we get approval for funding we envisage around £100m will be invested in key infrastructure at Kilkeel, Ardglass and Portavogie.

“My department has secured a significant amount of money, which I believe reflects my commitment and support for the future of our fishing industry, to procure and carry out essential environmental and technical studies to progress the harbour development proposals to the next stage,” he continued.

“These projects are complicated and take time and there is some way to go before we can take final decisions to build new harbours.

“However, this is an important first step and we look forward to working closely with the Harbour Authority, the fishing industry and others to further develop the proposals to a stage where we can secure necessary approvals and finance to transform our fishery harbours.”

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