No budget yet agreed for Council's proposed air show in 2022

Discussion on the event prompted heated exchanges during the Leisure and Development Committee.

No budget yet agreed for Council's proposed air show in 2022

A County Derry councillor has criticised a report brought to a local council committee that proposed an international air show next year, but did not include a budget for the event.

Sinn Féin Benbradagh councillor Dermot Nicholl hit out at Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council officials for allowing the report to come forward without a budget for an international air show planned in Portrush and Portstewart in 2022.

A proposal to finalise the dates of the air show as September 10 and 11 next year, as well as confirm the location of the sight line came before the Leisure and Development Committee this evening.

Cllr Nicholl also citicised the content of previous air shows, saying constituents who attended had claimed it was a 'military fest'. 

"I know people who have been at previous events and been very disappointed," he said.

"They would come out and say it was nearly like a 'military fest', rubbing your nose in it, and very uncomfortable. This was from both sides of the community, I might add.

"I don't see why people in our council area should be stumping up for something like this. There are groups out there looking for a few pound and we can't give them it.

"When are people going to wise up in this council? There are better ways of spending money. I'm disappointed at the director letting that come to us tonight with the budget not confirmed."

Mayor Richard Holmes also questioned the lack of specified budget in the report and raised concerns over road closures around the event.

"Without a rant, I was going to ask roughly what sort of money we were budgeting for this? Do we have to actually close off the road for the event itself? There may be some costs around that," he said.

Council officer Richard Baker said any budget included in the report would have been 'pure speculation' and that there would be 'road restrictions' in place rather than closures.

"There is a council decision here and the two fundamental points are the location, format and date of the event. We will build everything else around that," he said.

"If I had brought you a budget prior to tonight, it would have been pure speculation."

Coleraine councillor Norman Hillis also had some concerns around the change in venue for the event from previous air shows, and asked if it would be detrimental to the economic benefit seen by the area.

"In the past, the event was in Portrush, and we had the fireworks in the evening in Portstewart, so everyone was gaining," he said.

"We want everybody to benefit from all our events, but given the fact the event is in the middle of the area between Portrush and Portstewart, will there be a downturn for the coastal towns?"

Limavady councillor Aaron Callan, who has been involved in planning the event, said it was an 'exciting opportunity' for the area.

"The new sight line will give a more impressive show and give spectators a better viewing point to observe the show," he told the Committee.

"Being close to the displays gives that wow factor that people want, and I think this does that.

"In due course, we will see more information as the working group develops this further. This is a positive for the area given the economic impact this has had in the past.

"It will benefit the whole Borough, not just the Ports, as it will attract people into Causeway Coast and Glens."

The previous air show held in the area was run at a cost of £210,000, and a report by Sheffield Hallam University in 2016 reported a figure of £2.5 million of external money coming into the Borough as a result.

A vote on the proposal was carried by 11 votes to 5 and the proposal will go to full council for ratification.

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