Keep up with Armagh i

Calls to address serious maintenance issues at Clare Glen

There have been calls for council staff to urgently address serious maintenance issues at Clare Glen.

Independent representative for Cusher DEA, Alderman Paul Berry, was quite vocal on the subject at a recent ABC Environmental Services Committee meeting.

Clare Glen, outside Tandragee, is a popular walking spot and a scenic forested area with a caravan park.

Serious issues need to be addressed, however, not least of all the fact that a bridge is currently closed off for safety reasons.

A council report on the matter was included as part of the agenda for the committee meeting which took place on June 4.

It stated: “Two operatives regularly visit the site, cut the grass around the car parks, walk and inspect the site and empty the bins.

“Over the past few years, the erosion created by a fast-flowing river with high-sided banks has begun to take its toll on some of the paths around the park.

“This has led to areas where the trees and vegetation on the banks have been undermined, causing damage to the path surface and decreasing their width.

“Where this has created a hazard, staff have erected barriers to warn users to avoid that side of the path.

“In addition, some of the wooden fencing is beginning to show signs of deterioration.

“Council’s Estates Department are currently working on plans for short-term repair of some of these issues.

“Users are particularly concerned about the closure of the bridge spanning the river, approximately halfway between the upper and lower car parks.

“This bridge made for a convenient crossing point for those who were unable to complete the whole circuit of the paths, or who wished to take a shorter walk along both sides of the river.

“Unfortunately, the bridge has been closed for the past year due to a deterioration in its structural integrity.

“The timbers underpinning the structure, and the support pillars across the river have been examined by a structural engineer who declared them too hazardous for public use, and beyond economic repair.

“Officers have explored options for a replacement of the structure, but the confines of the site mean that any new bridge would need to be of a modular design, capable of being transported to the site using the existing pathways and constructed in situ.

“Such a project is likely to be complicated and hence expensive. Clearly there is a need for significant investment in the facility in order to deal with the immediate issues, reinforce the pathways and replace the bridge.

“Consequently, officers have prepared a bid for a number of funding streams, such as the Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation (TRIPSI) fund.

“The application seeks funding for the following: upgrade of 5.5km of country park trails to create a path accessible by all; replacement of the bridge; installation of visitor panels, including maps; installation of waymarkers along the three trails to improve orientation; installation of directional and safety signage; installation of trail furniture i.e. benches, ensuring the trails are suitable for intergenerational use and are accessible.

“Officers have prepared a business case and application, but there is no defined time frame for consideration of any application at present, however officers will keep members informed as the process progresses.

“Subject to the outcome of the application process, the capital and revenue implications of this project will be considered during the estimates setting process for 2025/26.”

Councillor Tim McClelland does not represent the part of the borough where Clare Glen is located, however his farm happens to be nearby and he was keen to speak on the matter.

The DUP representative said: “I suppose Clare Glen is as far away from the [Lagan River] DEA that I represent as is possible to be, but in terms of where I live, in terms of where I farm, it it is quite literally on my doorstep.

“Any time that I am in Clare Glen, the need for investment is stark, and that ranges from the need for the bridge to be fixed or to be replaced, to the erosion on many of the paths, and so on.

“I come in not as a DEA member, but as as a member who is concerned for Clare Glen.

“We need this investment, and I would certainly wish officers well in terms of the work that they’re doing behind the scenes to attempt to put the finance together to get this work carried out.”

Martin Towe, acting head of Health & Recreation, explained that a recent site meeting with Cusher DEA representatives had proved valuable: “We understand the issues at Clare Glen, we had a very interesting walk with some of the members.

“It was also very interesting for the officers to hear first hand some of the feedback that they’re hearing from their constituents.

“There is a considerable amount of investment needed, more investment than we as a council have available, and so therefore there is the need to try and engage with a third party and a funding body to help out with that.

“We are very skilled in identifying and being able to successfully apply for that type of of funding. We have a number of officers who are working on it actively at the moment.

“I’m sure members are interested in the timescale and that’s a difficult one for us, because the main funding stream that we’re interested in is going to be released by DAERA, and there’s no word at the moment as to when that’s going to be.

“But certainly we are working hard to try and engage with the right people, and as soon as there’s any updates we’ll come back to members.”

Ald Berry felt particularly strongly on the issue, and argued that more could be done by council staff by way of maintenance: “I’d like to thank the officers who attended the site meeting, with a majority of the DEA members for the Cusher.

“It was very useful, it was very helpful because the Clare Glen site itself is something that we are regularly contacted about, because of the lack of investment that is in it.

“And I welcome the neighbour here, Cllr McClelland, for speaking, I welcome his contribution.

“The thing that concerns me probably the most is that sometimes it takes site visits like this.

“A lot of the paths were damaged during the storms. [With] the heavy rainfall there’s a couple of big trees that fell into the river. We’re told that Rivers Agency will be in the process of moving them.”

The Independent councillor contended that not all issues could be blamed on a lack of funding: “There is still a lack of attention, in my humble opinion, from this council, in relation to the day-to-day running of Clare Glen, and I feel they need to step up their game on that one.

“I know it was mentioned in the report that they’ll be working on plans for a short-term repair of some of the issues that were raised.

“I would like [us] to receive an update based on this report on a time frame as to what’s actually being done.

“The bridge is a big issue for local people. We appreciate that it’s not safe, so therefore we can’t let the public on it, and we appreciate also that because of the regulations and because of the whole planning side of things, it cannot be the width that it currently is, it has to be two metres wide.

“But I would just like to know what the plans are in the short term, and maybe a report could come back in September for this, so that we can keep focus on this.”

Referring specifically to his interaction with council maintenance staff at the site meeting, Alderman Berry added: “It was regrettable that at the particular site meeting, we as councillors had to tell the staff to get the gates power-hosed to the entrance of the caravan park, cut that tree at the entrance, tidy it up and power-hose maybe that bin that was black but is now green.

“Those are things that we as councillors shouldn’t have to ask there. Frankly I thought there would have been a maintenance team going out, and before the caravan season started, ‘let’s go out here, let’s do a a sweep up, let’s do a tidy up, let’s get the chainsaws out, let’s get the power washers out’, and have this presentable.

“Because if I was a caravanner going into Clare Glen and seeing green gates and the state of it, I would be deeply concerned.

“That’s not a funding problem, that’s a management problem that needs to be resolved, and needs to be resolved rather quick.

“So there are things in the short term that could be done and can be done by this council.

“I was walking it on Saturday [June 1] with the kids and it’s a beautiful walk, but there’s clearly improvements that are needed.

“I would like to see more short-term attention as to practical things that we can do, especially now into the summer.

“It’s a beautiful asset on our doorstep and I think it has been overlooked.

“We as [Cusher] DEA councillors, along with the help of Cllr McClelland as a neighbour, we’re not going to sit back and allow it to be ignored any more, because investment is needed, but there’s improvements that are needed in the short term, and I would like to see action. Let’s get a report in September.

“I’d like to thank the officers that were there, but obviously we want to see more because of the pressure that we are under – understandably – from the community who love it and cherish it. It’s not vandalism, it’s just neglect.”

Fellow Cusher DEA representative, Councillor Keith Ratcliffe (TUV) expressed grave concerns regarding health & safety issues: “It was just to reiterate what Cllr McClelland and Ald Berry have already said.

“I’ve had a site meeting actually in January at Clare Glen. I pointed out a lot of the issues, especially the fencing – there’s a lot of fencing broken – and there’s extremely deep water beside that and obviously it is extremely dangerous for children from a health and safety point of view.

“I know you can’t fence the whole area, but there’s a lot of constituents about there obviously at the weekends, and I had two or three phone calls from extremely worried parents.

“I have to agree with Ald Berry here, I do feel that Clare Glen has been neglected.

“I just have to point that out because I also understand that the bridge is going to take a considerable amount of funding, but there’s a lot of things there that could be addressed, and really it’s shocking the way it has been neglected over the last few years.

“I actually live right beside it myself, like Cllr McClelland, and I go for a run round once or twice a week, and it really has gone downhill so, I would just stress, tell the officers to please try as hard as possible to to get some of these issues resolved.”

Councillor Lavelle McIlwrath (DUP, Portadown DEA) suggested a possible source of funding: “In terms of the Landfill Community Fund, we have a landfill site just out the road, a stone’s throw from Clare Glen.

“The council is a corporate body, can [we] apply for funding into that, and if so, that’s surely one that we should be looking at?”

Head of Climate, Sustainability and Parks, Barry Patience replied: “Yes, Council as a corporate body can apply, because it’s about access and openness, so I’ll certainly let the team know that and recommend – if they haven’t done it already – that that would be a option for it.”

Sign Up To Our Newsletter

Most read today

More in Tandragee