Monday, 28 September 2009

'Marconi Cottage' Gaffe?

A current advertisement on the BTW Cairns property website contains questionable information, information that could well affect the value of the property.

Steeped in heritage set on the foreshore on the north Antrim coast. In May 1898, Guglielmo Marconi resided at Marconi's Cottage, and the house was used to carry out some of the earliest radio transmissions to and from Rathlin Island. Marconi's Cottage is positioned on the foreshore, with direct access to the sea.

Where's the research that would substantiate such a claim?

An historian who has researched the short Marconi visit to Ballycastle says:

This property [at the end of the Carrickmore Road] has no historical connection whatsoever with the pioneer of radio. Mr Marconi visited Ballycastle for three days in 1898 during which time, according to his diary, he visited Rathlin Island and the wireless station his colleagues set up at Humphries' coalyard (now a slot machine parlour) on Bayview Rd, at the Quay in Ballycastle. The sending and receiving equipment was set up in the corner bedroom at Mr Greer's house on North Street. In fact Mr Kemp complained of catching a cold due to having the window continually open to accommodate the wires. The aerial was hung from the spire of St Patrick's and St Brigid's chapel spire and carried across to a spar on the clifftop.

The National Trust coastal path provides a pleasant walk to Fairhead.

Indeed. So what exactly is the reason behind putting up a fence on the seaward side of the road and removing the fence on the landward side [landward fence renewed - see image at top]? Is there an intention to block off a section of the road for the benefit of the new owner and with no regard for those who already use the road? Has the Planning Service given permission for the erection of the fence, especially at those points where walkers would have gone down onto the rocks?

I'm told that the boundary on the seaward side of the property should stop at the high water mark whereas the map boundary encroaches on the rocks and therefore quite possibly onto the Crown Estate. Was this map authenticated and accepted by the local planning service? Is the map up-to-date?

Click images to enlarge

A section of the Williamson 1790 colliery map shows the tramroad to the collieries, evidence of a highway and public right of way since that time. The location of the cottage is marked by a red arrow. The old name for the cottage is "Old Salt Pans". It was also one of Hugh Boyd's colliery 'watch houses'; also called "Ca' the coals" and "The Old Coalyard" - hence the initial confusion between it and Humphries' old coalyard at the Quay in Ballycastle.

Adds Sep 29

I'm told that the details of this story were raised at Monday night's meeting of Moyle District Council and that a council official has been delegated to make further inquiries.

Kevin McAuley's Letter to the Editor re. 'Marconi's Cottage'.

Adds Oct 1

Perhaps December 29, 2008 wasn't the best time to grant planning permission for a replacement dwelling at 40 Carrickmore Road, Ballycastle. How else could the Planning Service have missed the declaration that there was no public right of way adjoining the site when a public road is clearly marked on the deeds map above? And then there's the mystery within the related Moyle Council minutes:

Ms McMath stated that this application was recommended for refusal due to the application being contrary to Policy CTY1 no justification for the replacement of this vernacular building and 5 of PPS14, no justification for the replacement of the building, worthy of retention and unacceptable visual impact.

I can find no explanation in the council minutes for the about turn or any follow-up on the one month deferral.

Now that the property has been extended is the erection of a fence topped with barbed wire on the seaward side of the public road not a breach of the conditions imposed? There were to be inter alia no fences 'other than those as approved by this consent or as may be agreed by the Department'. The purpose of the conditions was to 'preserve the character of the area', an area that I'm told lies within the Ballycastle Coalfields SSI. Photographs submitted with the original planning application show no previous fence on that side of the road.

Adds Oct 4

Why has a style been added to the new fence on the landward side of the public road? Do the pebbles beside it represent the beginning of a path to by-pass the public road? Did the pebbles come from the beach below the road? The recent marks on the track down to the beach would appear to match those adjacent to the cottage.

Adds Oct 6

Povall Worthington's 'Marconi Cottage'

This appears to be a recently modified website yet the historical inaccuracy has not been corrected and the barbed and sheep wire fence plus style added.

Perhaps we should 'congratulate' BTW Cairns and Povall Worthington for highlighting the Planning Service's permission to demolish such a world renowned building and its callous disregard for the heritage of the Kingdom of Moyle. And why were Moyle councillors and officials apparently asleep at their posts on 22 December 2008 [DOC file]? Or had they retired to the Mayor's Parlour early? ;)

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Bushmills - Another Day, Another Minister

Plus ça change…

It seems like only yesterday that Sammy Wilson, the then Minister of the Environment, was walking the main street of Bushmills, the Gateway to the Causeway, with its boarded up windows, abandoned partially constructed properties and weed strewn pavements.

Yesterday it was the turn of the new Minister, Edwin Poots. The questions remained much the same. "Why has the centre of the town been allowed to get into such a dilapidated state?"; "Why haven't the partially constructed new wooden structures been pulled down?"; "What is the Minister going to do about those who purchase properties, board them up and leave them to decay?" Funnily enough, I didn't spot any likely developers in the entourage.

Click photos to enlarge

The Minister appeared bemused and perhaps his mind was on other things. There are rumours circulating that the introduction of the Super Councils may be delayed and that elections to the current district councils may be held in May 2010.

I'm sure my contacts in Ballycastle would like me to remind the Minister about plans which could radically alter the Diamond's centrepiece: the Boyd Church and its environs.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Moyle District Council, Rathlin Island Ferry Ltd and Berthing Fees

Is Moyle District Council (MDC) onto a nice little earner at the moment? Do they not get enough money from ratepayers without acquiring more via the taxpayer subsidy to Rathlin Island Ferry Limited (RIFL)?

I'm told that the Canna, St Sorney and Rathlin Express are berthed in Rathlin harbour and the Coll is berthed at the old quay in Ballycastle harbour.

Talking of Rathlin, the Committee for Regional Development (CRD) is scheduled to travel to Rathlin tomorrow (Wednesday, September 23) to meet the Rathlin Development and Community Association (RDCA).

Will the CRD be explaining to the RDCA and to the general public why it still hasn't reviewed the Investigation into the Procurement of the Rathlin Ferry Service, December 2008, report (almost 700 reads)? Will it be asking the RDCA and MDC why there appear to be no councillors on RDCA, an organisation that handles significant amounts of public funds?

Will CRD be asking RIFL why the company operated the Canna at the beginning of September, 2008, with an invalid passenger certificate and, presumably, void insurance? Will the CRD be asking the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) if it passed this information to the relevant section of the Department for Regional Development? Peter Cardy, MCA Chief Executive, has admitted that the certificate was invalid, a point that was drawn to the attention of the investigators above but one which they failed to establish in their £55,000 report.

Will CRD also be asking why only £700,000 of the £1.2 million budgeted for a short term passenger only ferry (but not mentioned to all of the tenderers - or perhaps any of the tenderers - in the tendering process) has been returned by DRD? Will it seek out the Mystic Meg who apparently anticipated that £1.2 million would be the approximate cost of the new catamaran? Do any other Government departments avail of the services of Mystic Meg?

And will CRD be asking why the Tender Evaluation Panel (TEP) contained folks who were intimately involved with tenderers in the procurement process? Surely, TEP should have been independent.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Minister 'captured' in Moyle


Adds Sept 30

Cara McShane, Moyle Council chairman, had this to say:

On Wednesday 9th September**, I was honored to be invited to the official launch of the new catamaran ferry between Ballycastle and Rathlin Island. Although there were many potholes on the journey over to Rathlin, .... Daithí's blog

[** 999?]

Seems that Cara missed the formal dress wear part of the invitation that I received personally from one of the company directors and this latest revelation won't endear her to the DRD press office which seems keen to put the best possible spin on news about the Rathlin ferry.

Conor Murphy, Minister for Regional Development, also seems keen to hide behind the words of Lord Adonis rather than shed light on the role played by his officials in last September's operation of the MV Canna with an invalid passenger certificate and, presumably, void insurance.

Perhaps the Minister could also explain precisely what his department's stance is on the purchase of ferries - we've had YES, NO, YES - and why the Small Ferries Project team seems deficient in folks who actually operate ferry services and why all lifeline services across the UK and Ireland aren't part of the study. Some ferry operators appear not to have been told about this past Tuesday's event in Brussels.

Maybe the folks at CMAL will present the Minister with an SFP monogrammed tie - and a copy of their own press release.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Bushmills Riverbank

Some visitors to Bushmills tonight liked this photo so I said I would put it on NALIL blog. There are some more images on the Tom from Turfahun photostream.

Click to enlarge images

Meanwhile over on Main Street who should we point the finger at for the Conservation Zone mess?

Monday, 7 September 2009

Rathlin - The Man in the Calmac Jacket

Where Yellow and Blue Make Green

Is this a secret EU mission to Rathlin Island to discuss the price of fish? Where's the customary DUP press release?

Diane Dodds, MEP, and Mervyn Storey, MLA, are on tour with a gentleman wearing what I'm told is a Calmac jacket, an item of protective wear supplied by the company that used to provide the ferry service to Rathlin Island.

Might he be the chair of the Rathlin Development and Community Association? Might he also be one of the skippers of the new but troubled RIFL catamaran, the Rathlin Express?

Ballycastle's New Dry Dock
8 September 2009

The Rise and Fall

'Lifeline service suspended?' and other photos - click here

The Great Rathlin Drought of 2009?

The Irish News ran a story last week entitled "Water shipped to island".

Here are some snippets from the September 2 article:

"NORTHERN Ireland Water (NIW) faced a wave of criticism last night after it emerged that it had been forced to ship thousands of gallons of water to residents of Rathlin Island."

"In 2004 ... a £400,000 mains water supply came into service."

[Was that the budgeted figure? Did the project not go over budget?]

"Over the August 31 bank holiday weekend NIW prepared for increased tourist numbers by shipping extra water to the island." ... NIW spokeswoman

[Has extra water been shipped at other periods of peak demand?]

"I’ve been told by residents on Rathlin that the pump from the island’s bore-well failed and that people were left without running water for large parts of the last two days," .. Cathal Newcombe, SF councillor

“Over the August bank holiday weekend a technical problem was identified with pumps on Rathlin Island.

“This resulted in the intermittent loss of supplies to a few customers directly linked to the pump.

“NIW provided bottled water to the properties affected where appropriate.” .. NIW spokeswoman

No mention has been made of an earlier problem with the newish Rathlin water supply:

Rathlin Island

8 January 2007 - incident lasted for three days

"Coliform bacteria failures in final waters at the water treatment works, service reservoir and in the water supply zone. Investigation by NI Water was unable to identify a specific reason."

Do the Rathlin boreholes have sufficient current capacity to meet the needs of the islanders, the tourists and the animals? There's been plenty of rain but is it getting through to the boreholes?

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Gipsy Rose Lee and the Rathlin Ferry

A recent Department for Regional Development weekly business review was given the following briefing on July 17, 2009:

6.1 Public Transport
Doreen Brown confirmed that the new catamaran was now being used between Ballycastle and Rathlin Island.

Rathlin Island Ferry Ltd website tells a different and contradictory story:

The new boat "Rathlin Express" began on July 18th with a full compliment on her first trip! 97 pax + 3 crew!

The catamaran promised for July 1 went into service almost three weeks late and has been out of action on at least three four occasions since then, sometimes for several days at a time.

I received a 'catamaran broken down' text message on Monday, July 27, and the St Sorney was also acting as relief vessel on the following day. According to the Grapevine, the catamaran overheated and had to return to Rathlin. Did the driver forget to go through the proper procedures and fail to turn on the water supply to the engines?

The catamaran is timetabled to do the journey in twenty minutes but seemed at times to be taking over thirty minutes. Ship ais website shows that the catamaran travelled to Moville on Tuesday, August 4, and returned to Rathlin on Friday, August 7. A Moyle council official said new propellers were fitted, presumably to enhance the craft's speed.

The catamaran returned to Moville on Monday, August 17, and then travelled to Coleraine harbour the following day where it was hoisted onto the quayside. A Maritime and Coastguard Agency spokesman said that this was done so that repairs could be made to the skegs. Did the catamaran ground or was there another reason for the damage?

I'm told that there is to be a special ceremony this Wednesday at 10am in Ballycastle to herald the arrival of the new vessel followed by lunch on Rathlin Island.

Perhaps the organisers will be consulting with Gipsy Rose Lee to find out whether or not the catamaran will be available for the special crossing.

Adds September 7

Rathlin island boat delayed by an hour grrr mechanical failure

11:20 AM Sep 5th from TweetDeck

It was the express which was out of service

[about 10pm Sep 6th from TweetDeck]

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Rathlin Ferry Contract: EU, UK and DRD

The EU Commission has recently stated that it is still awaiting a UK reply to a complaint that is being processed under the EU PILOT fast-track procedure. A reply was expected within ten weeks of the complaint being received by the relevant UK authority.

An MLA informed NALIL that s/he was briefed privately by a Stormont civil servant about the Commission intervention.

A query was subsequently put to Conor Murphy, DRD Minister, on NIcrunchtalk and the following DRD answer was forwarded to NALIL by NIcrunchtalk's Joanne Stuart on June 18:

The other outstanding question was regarding the EU investigation. The department's response is:

"The Department has not been contacted by the European Commission and is not aware of any investigation being carried out by the Commission into the Rathlin Ferry Contract."

How strange. The MLA has since confirmed that the earlier private briefing came from a DRD official!!