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‘Two Loughs’ report unveils potential £1m investment to breathe new life into area

Thursday, 26 April 2018

DETAILS of a new study aiming to breath new life into two loughs in the wider rural district of Strabane with a potential investment to the tune of £1 million, have been unveiled.

The 'Two Loughs' report was commissioned by Derry City and Strabane District Council (DCSDC), the Loughs Agency and Inland Fisheries to explore a number of options to develop the quality of the fishery provision and to examine the scope for expanding sustainable tourism and recreational developments at the Moorlough and Lough Ash sites which lie between Donemana, Aughabrack and Glenmornan.

The envisaged project will feed into a wider blueway development for the Sperrins region.

The 150-page report and its adoption was presented at council's Business and Culture Committee last Tuesday.

A paper presented to councillors stated: "In its current format Lough Ash is primarily an angling resource, while Moorlough is enjoyed informally as a wider amenity resource. Other than anglers, user groups at Moorlough include water based activity enthusiasts and recreational walkers.

"This study is intended to be phase one of a three phased approach to the development and enhancement of angling, recreational and heritage provision at a number of river locations and still water sites within the Derry City and Strabane District Council area.

"The study's focus is on investigating the feasibility of enhancing existing angling provision at Moorlough and Lough Ash while also developing complementary angling provision between the two sites.

"It also reviews the the potential for other recreational and heritage based activities at both sites and how this would integrate sympathetically into the natural environment and with other established activities."

Among the key findings is a need to clarify and define roles and responsibilities of the various public bodies, a requirement to consolidate and formalise legal agreements with the owners of land and angling/access rights and the need to engage local community groups with a view to facilitating a community partnership/ management approach to longer term delivery.

Infrastructural enhancements - including essential maintenance works - estimated at £930,750 (ex VAT) have been costed for the report with £584,000 for Moorlough and £244,000 for Lough Ash.

A further £102,850 has been costed for additional signage, including consultancy and marketing fees. A new play area and a £131,000 nature trail have also been proposed for Moorlough.

Councillors have agreed to continuing officer participation in the Two Loughs working group with a view to investigating opportunities for the delivery of the recommendations highlighted within the study.

'Momentous'

Welcoming the publication of the document, Sinn Féin Sperrin councillor Dan Kelly, described it as "momentous" adding that it represents "the most significant and exciting vote of confidence for fishing and tourism development in this part of the Sperrins for at least a generation".

Cllr Kelly said: "I'm very pleased that having been involved so closely with this project over a long number of years that there is finally a report which is so categorical in stating that both Moorlough and Lough Ash lie at the heart of what will be a phased blueway development in the Sperrins.

"This blueway development will be expand in Phase II to incorporate the Burndennett and Glenmornan Rivers and in Phase III to incorporate the Strabane Canal."

"The extensive consultations with landowners, statutory agencies and the local communities has resulted in a set of exciting proposals which initially look to enhance provision at both sites without impacting on their character."

Cllr Kellly said models of best practice at Loughmacrory and Lake Muckno were used to inform the study.

"This means Lough Ash will be developed in a way which retains the naturally unspoilt aspects of the lough and its location, while consideration at Moorlough will have to be given to the impact that access by too many cars to the lough shore is having on water quality and the condition of the road.

"Many people drive up into the Sperrins to experience a few hours away from it all and I'm delighted to see the focus on developing quality destinations like Lough Ash and Moorlough that provide so much opportunity for anglers, walkers, cyclists, heritage and water sports enthusiasts alike," he said.

Cllr Kelly continued: "Phase I of the project has been costed at £900,000 and this investment represents yet another vote of confidence in the Sperrins in terms of maximising the sport, recreational and tourism potential of this region.

"There is no doubt that this project will be the catalyst for significant future development in these sectors and it is no coincidence that the report identifies the potential for job creation that will accrue from it."

 

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