An ambitious vision document which proposes a water-sports park, boardwalks and a new tidal water feature to unlock the full potential of one of Ireland’s great harbour towns has been unveiled.
The Bantry Bay Port Company, which commissioned the report, say they hope it will act as a catalyst for the future development of the Cork town, and underpin efforts to secure funding to realise the vision.
“It is hoped that this plan will raise the profile of Bantry’s maritime opportunity and provide a template for local community groups to engage with public agencies who can assist with deliverable projects, which can attract funding support,” said Port of Cork CEO, Brendan Keating.
“The recommendations by the architects of this design review will signpost a realistic pathway which will deliver a new vision for the maritime/harbour interface with the town.”
The port company commissioned the Royal Institute of Architects in Ireland (RIAI) to undertake an independent design review process that would consider the potential of the town's inner harbour and slob area.
Three registered architects, Peter Carroll, Louise Cotter and Paul Dillon, who worked on the project, all suggested the opening up of culverts in the town to bring tidal water back into the town centre in a controlled way.
Ms Cotter's specifics include a network of boardwalks connecting the harbour to the town, creating destination spaces and community facilities, including a route from the airfield back through the town and out to the Cobb Beach. She also suggested new boat and rowing facilities on the waterside of the N71 next to the Abbey graveyard.
Mr Carroll said the inner harbour could be developed as the Bantry Marine Activity Centre, capable of hosting rowing, festivals, iron-man circuits and international sports events, and he proposed replanting and paving to create a promenade from the new South Pier through the town and onto the new green area at the North Quay.
And Mr Dillon proposed the creation of wetlands in the harbour slob area, based on landscape designs by French landscape architects for the Bottière-Chênaie Eco district in Nantes.
The RIAI’s CEO, Kathryn Meghen, said the institute’s purpose is to drive excellence in architecture and the built environment for the benefit of people: “The architects’ ideas in the Bantry report demonstrate both a consideration and understanding of place and a repository of innovative ideas, while cognisant of context and available resources.
While RIAI design reviews are not a statutory process, they act as a driver for new ideas and fresh thinking for a quality-built environment.”
Two years ago, the port company completed an €8.5m investment in the inner harbour, including a leisure marina, the widening of the town pier, dredging of the inner harbour and the creation of a foreshore amenity space.