Row over £413,000 Bann jetty ‘unfit for purpose’

One of Ireland’s top boating magazines has advised boat owners “to think very carefully” before using the £413,000 River Bann jetty at Shillington’s Quay, which was completed recently for the ABC Borough Council.

When the new quay was transferred to the council, there were claims that using the jetty was difficult, due to “design errors”. And, according to the magazine of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland, which serves 5,000 boat enthusiasts, those difficulties still pertain.

Brian Cassells, vice-chairman and past president of the association, said that the car park at the quay made it difficult for motorists to reverse their trailers into place down the slipway to launch boats.

He added that the railings and the wires were so high that boat owners had added difficulties in launching their vessels, and that it often took two to do the job. Mr Cassells also stated that boulders beneath the water line could cause damage to the bottom of boats.

He added, “The old jetty was a bit Spartan, but boats could be launched within a few minutes by one person. It was said at that stage that an additional £14,000 would be required to have things put right at the slipway.”

The magazine article states, “The extensive use of stainless steel and facing stone, the picnic tables, the re-planning and resurfacing of the car park, the subdued lighting and the replacement of wooden jetties look well, but unfortunately, unless one is embarking/disembarking on/from a boat already in the water, or has waders and plenty of help, the whole enterprise is not fit for purpose.

“It takes quite a lot of room for a car and trailer to swing round for at the top of the slip. The new car park layout makes this difficult.”

Councillor David Jones has taken the issue up with the ABC Council. “While the project looks terrific, it seems to totally unsuitable,” he claimed.

However, the council believes the slipway is fit for purpose, and replied to Mr Jones, “Renowned experts have confirmed that the work, completed at the old town quay, presents as an outstanding example of best practice. The £14,000 has not be used.”

The statement added that training had been offered to boat owners “but no one turned up, citing they had been advised by the leadership of Inland Waterways not to participate in the training. This was very disappointing given the training was site-specific and would have improved health and safety.”

The statement went on, “The quay is currently being used extensively by boat users and canoe users – all in a very positive way. The work has now come to the end of the defects period and are now carrying out minor snags.”

The statement also concedes that the slipway historically has been a shallow one, dropping off abruptly, and it may be difficult to launch larger boats for more inexperienced users. Silt deposits are a problem and this would require “an enormous level of financial assistance.”

Alistair Uprichard, secretary of River Bann and Lough Neagh Association, said, “The Inland Waterways know the score only too well – the slipway looks terrific, but it’s extremely difficult for the solo boat owner to launch a craft.”

Mr Jones said, “The council reply raises more questions than it answers and I will be pursuing this for a long-term solution. The council has stated that boat owners can enter the water via Oxford Island, which isn’t much help.”