An expert on Ireland’s inland waterways has described Portadown’s new £413,000 jetty at the Bann as “a virtual white elephant, totally unfit for purpose”.
Brian Cassells, vice-chairman and past president of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland, said, “The number of design errors is incredible. From the car parking to the slipway, to the jetty to the mooring platforms, everything seems to be wrong.”
He added that the design of the car park makes it difficult to turn a boat and trailer into position to reverse down the slipway.
The jetty did not extend far enough into the river, “with the result that it is difficult to float a boat off the trailer”. One boatman, he claimed, saw his trailer sink into the river and it took four friends to extract it.
The fence surrounding the structure is too high, the mooring platforms are too far from the jetty. “It is, in fact, dangerous,” said Mr Cassells. “Aesthetically, the jetty looks terrific, with its stainless steel design, its picnic tables and lighting, street furniture and picnic tables. The trouble is, it doesn’t work for the purpose for which it was intended, and boat owners are fearful of using it.”
A prime example – while the Portadown Times interviewed Mr Cassells at the riverside – was Mark Buckley who eventually managed to launch his Shetland 570 cabin cruiser. “Everything Brian says is absolutely true,” said Mr Buckley. “On top of all that, there are boulders in and around the jetty and these could hole a boat.
“The old jetty certainly needed replacing, but I could launch my boat there in five minutes, without any hassle.”
The problem was brought to the notice of the Portadown Times a fortnight ago by Mr Danny O’Neill of Ashgrove Manor, a keen coarse fisherman who had to call in the help of friends to get his 17-foot Shetland craft onto the water.
He complained just days after Lord Mayor Darryn Causby declared the structure open. “It’s rather frustrating, as I have been fishing the Bann for years,” he told the Times. And last week, he claimed that boats are having to launch at the River Blackwater and travel via Lough Neagh to reach the fishing grounds at the Bann.
But Mr Cassells said this could be dangerous due to the fact that dredging was required at Bannfoot where the Upper Bann converges with the lough.
Some £277,000 of the cost was met by the EU’s InterReg fund, with the new ABC Council providing the remaining £135,000. Ukip council member David Jones is calling for a full investigation.
“I have heard a number of complaints since it was opened, with anglers telling me it was much easier to launch from the old quay,” added Mr Jones.