Derry City and Strabane District Council has confirmed that it has appointed contractors to undertake improvement works at Strabane Canal and The Gribben. It is part of the Rivers Project, a rural co-operation project involving a partnership between the Loughs Agency, Derry City and Strabane District Council, Donegal County Council and Causeway Coast and Glens Council, as well as partners in Latvia and Estonia. The aim of the project is to improve facilities for both land and water users at the Council-owned Strabane Canal and the Loughs Agency-owned Gribben site.
William Doherty Construction Ltd has been appointed to carry out the works and will commence the project from Monday, 22nd June. The work at the Canal will entail extensive resurfacing of the 1.2km of towpath from Greenlaw Road to the Foyle, fencing improvements, and new signage and seating. At The Gribben, the plans include providing improved camping facilities and adding new signage and seating.
The project will deliver on several of the key priorities in the District’s Green Infrastructure Plan, including the provision of high quality multi-functional green & blue spaces, and ensuring green and blue spaces are a driver for tourism and economic growth.
Welcoming the commencement of the works, Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Cllr Brian Tierney said this was very welcome news for the people of Strabane and wider area. He said once complete, it will make the Strabane Canal area and The Gribben much safer and accessible to the public.
“This is a very popular area for walkers, cyclists and people who love the outdoors and I am delighted Council and its partners have taken the lead in upgrading the amenities in the area to make it more accessible and enjoyable for people to use. I would like to acknowledge the investment from Council and the other partners and look forward to seeing the works when they are completed. This project has huge potential to increase visitor numbers and deliver real health and social benefits to the local and wider community. I am confident that these two sites will also allow visitors to the area to have an enhanced visitor experience and that this investment will have a positive impact on the rural tourism product in the Strabane area,” he said.
The works are expected to last for an estimated 12 week period, weather permitting. The public are asked to note that there will be no access to the site while this work is being carried out. The public are encouraged to adhere to the signage and to co-operate fully despite this temporary inconvenience.
The project is estimated to cost £225,000 and is being part funded by Derry City and Strabane District Council, the Loughs Agency and the Northern Ireland Rural Development programme 2014-2020 from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs and the European Union.
A project steering group was set up to develop the project with representatives from Council, Loughs Agency, the Brighter Ballymagorry Group and Strabane & Lifford Men’s Shed, Education and Health Group. A key element of the project is the fact that the Canal is a Scheduled Monument so the team have been working closely with the Historic Environment Division of NIEA to ensure the works do not affect the archaeological value of the Canal.
Sharon McMahon, Chief Executive Officer of the Loughs Agency, said “Loughs Agency is pleased to be a partner in this project, that will improve the experience for visitors to Strabane Canal and Gribben Quay. The Agency continues to work on the development of marine tourism and angling throughout the cross border Foyle Catchment, exploring innovative ways for people to become better connected to the beautiful, natural assets we have in our care.”
Mary Hunter, Chair of Derry and Strabane Rural Partnership, added: “This is the first capital project under the Rural Development Programme Cooperation Scheme for Derry Strabane Rural Partnership, which we are delivering in partnership with the Loughs Agency and Local Action Groups in Causeway Coast & Glens, Donegal, Latvia and Estonia. Our shared aim in this transnational cooperation project is to create attractive, water-based recreation products, which have the potential to increase visitor numbers and deliver health and social benefits. Locally, we are delighted that the project will improve access to and increase attractiveness of two sites that are currently under-utilised. Meaningful improvements to both sites will make them more appealing for local users and will also enhance the visitor experience and tourism potential to these rural areas, which will have a positive economic impact on our rural economy.”