Fear over Hazelbank ‘commercialisation’

Hazelbank Park. INNT 29-057-PSB
Hazelbank Park. INNT 29-057-PSB
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Councillors expressed concern about the potential over-commercialisation of Hazelbank Park at last week’s monthly meeting.

Proposals were put before representatives for a potential cafe development at the popular seaside location.

Council officers have said there is a public demand for such a facility, but could not provide further details or progress with the plan without the council’s support “in principle”.

Currently three vendors are contracted to be allowed on the site to sell food stuffs until June, 2014.

And a cafe which operates on the nearby Loughshore park has proved a success with the public.

Alliance representative Billy Webb said: “I am against the commercial development of the park and this does cause great concern without any details being known.

“We cannot allow public-owned park facilities to become over-commercialised.”

John Blair added: “Members will know I have taken the council to judicial review over the wholesale and undiluted development of our public parks.

“I would, however, support a small cafe development, but I would have reservations about where it was located.

“If it were near the toilet block of the park that could be suitable, but we would need to see this proposal in full before allowing anything to proceed, but I could be persuaded, especially given the success of the cafe at the Loughshore park.”

Jackie Mann said: “We don’t want to be ambushed here and then see a hotel built on the site, we have to be careful.”

Councillor Robert Hill said: “This is very early days in terms of where we are at on any business development.

“Members are speculating and worrying about worst-case scenarios.

“There is little point in worrying about what might happen until we see what exactly the proposal is.”

Council chief executive Jacqui Dixon responded: “We need the council to support the idea in principle, before we can progress the matter.

“Once the support is in place, the next step will be to look at a possible location and size of any development.

“And any plan will be subject to the planning process and will have to be put through a public tender exercise.”

The plan comes after the development of a cafe at the Loughshore park development.

It is operated by Barista, which has a lease agreement with the council for 10 years following the park’s major redevelopment in 2011.