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Antrim and Newtownabbey

£2.3million Gateway Visitor Centre Officially Opened

Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Councillor Jim Montgomery was joined by the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Edwin Poots MLA to officially open the new £2.3m Gateway Visitor Centre, Antrim. Nestled on the shores of Lough Neagh, this state-of-the-art visitor centre features an exciting, new exhibition space, a restaurant and is also home to Lough Neagh Rescue.  

The exhibition space tells the story of the Lough and its influence on our past, present, and future. The sights and sounds will excite and enthuse all ages and the learning experience reflects five key themes around the Lough: Legends, Life, Living, Lives and Links.  

Home to Lough Neagh Rescue, The Gateway equips volunteers with top class facilities to help them deliver their invaluable service to users of Lough Neagh. The space has been designed to specifically meet the needs of this rescue service offering a prime location with full sight of and direct access to the Lough. 

Situated on the first floor, The Boathouse restaurant offers a family friendly environment, with an outdoor terrace offering panoramic views across Lough Neagh. Their diverse menu includes delicious fish and chips and authentic pizzas, making it the perfect stop off for locals and visitors to the area.  

In the upcoming months, ‘The Protector of the Lough’ art sculpture will be erected at the water’s edge to complement the area. Inspired by the works of WB Yeats, this magnificent silhouette will stand tall against the horizon and Finn McCool will be instantly recognisable from far across the water celebrating the Lough, the land, the folklore and the heritage.

The Gateway project was first considered as part of the Antrim Development Strategy 2005 – 2010 which recognised the development potential of the location to benefit local residents and visitors. The project is recognised as an important asset to act as a stimulus for local tourism recovery post Covid-19. It was part-funded under the Rural Tourism Scheme of the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme 2014 – 2020 by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs which contributed £500,000 and the Heritage Lottery Fund under the Lough Neagh Landscape Partnership Scheme which contributed £60,000. The Council invested the remaining funding of £50,000.   

(L-R) Chief Executive of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, Jacqui Dixon; Edwin Poots MLA, Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs; Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Councillor Jim Montgomery; Chairman of Lough Neagh Partnership, Conor Jordan and Deputy Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Councillor Noreen McClelland are pictured at the Official Opening of The Gateway Visitor Centre in Antrim.

Officially opening the new visitor centre, Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Councillor Jim Montgomery said; “Antrim is the only town with direct access to Lough Neagh and the largest freshwater lake in the British Isles. I am immensely proud to formally open this fantastic facility, a location which I firmly believe will become a jewel in the Borough’s list of wonderful tourist attractions. Uniquely positioned on the edge of Lough Neagh, this new centre will further complement local attractions such as Antrim Castle Gardens, Clotworthy House, Shane’s Castle and local golf provision and will boost our tourism offering, providing visitors with a high quality experience in a stunning setting”.  

He continued; “This project will generate significant economic and tourism benefits for Lough Neagh and its surrounding areas. I would like to take this opportunity to thank DAERA, the Heritage Lottery Fund and Lough Neagh Landscape Partnership for the support they have provided for this much needed facility.” 

Edwin Poots MLA, Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs commented, “Tourism is vitally important to our rural economy and the competitive nature of the tourism marketplace, over the next few years, cannot be underestimated.   

(L-R) Connor Corr, Lough Neagh Partnership; Sean Rocks, Chairmain for Lough Neagh Partnership; Edwin Poots MLA, Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs; Deputy Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Councillor Noreen McClelland; Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Councillor Jim Montgomery and Liam Teague, Lough Neagh Partnership.

“The Rural Tourism Scheme was established in order to invest in natural and built heritage projects that can act as key drivers for encouraging rural tourism and out-of-state visitors.  We believe that investing in tourism projects, will enable not only linkages to be made to other local attractions, but also the development of ‘tourism corridors’, which will encourage and increase visitor footfall in our rural areas.   

“I’m therefore delighted to be invited to the opening of the Gateway Centre at Lough Neagh, which provides an interactive space telling not only the story of the lough but also providing a focal point for tourists to plan their visit, exploring all that the local area has to offer.   

“It is clear from my visit here today, that the creation of visitor experiences showcasing our natural landscape and that are compelling and accessible to all, can offer long term sustainability and growth for rural tourism in Northern Ireland. I wish this project every success going forward.”  

Antrim and Newtownabbey

Thinking of Applying for a Council Leisure Grant?

Good news for all sports enthusiasts in the Borough!  Applications have reopened for the Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council Leisure Grant Aid Programme.  Sports clubs, elite athletes, sports officials and governing bodies of sport are all invited to apply.

The programme aims to assist in the promotion and development of sport within the Borough.  Financial assistance can be received for training and competition costs, running of local sporting events, coach education, and facility improvement if the set criteria is met.  Individual athletes can claim up to £1500 and clubs can claim up to £20,000 depending on the requirements of the applicant.

Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Councillor Billy Webb commented:

“As a Council we are proud to continually invest in our leisure and sporting sector and I am delighted that the Leisure Grant Scheme has significantly benefited numerous elite athletes and sports clubs since it began in 2015”

To apply for a leisure grant visit here.

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Antrim and Newtownabbey

Local Businesses receive Royal Award

Lord Lieutenant of County Antrim, Mr David McCorkell and Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Councillor BIlly Webb are pictured with Martin McKay from Texthelp Ltd who was recently awarded the Queen's Award for Enterprise.

Three businesses from across Antrim and Newtownabbey were invited to Mossley Mill to recognise their valuable contribution and efforts as recipients of the Queen’s Award for Enterprise. 

This prestigious award is designed to recognise and encourage outstanding achievements in the fields of Innovation, International Trade, Sustainable Development and Promoting Opportunity (through social mobility). 

Hosted by Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, Lord Lieutenant of County Antrim, Mr David McCorkell presented the impressive award to local businesses InspecVision, Environmental Street Furniture and Texthelp. 

Environmental Street Furniture

Environmental Street Furniture was established in 2012. Based in Newtownabbey, the company designs and manufactures a range of innovative outdoor furniture which is solar powered to offer IOT reporting, mobile phone charging and LED lighting. It has recently also launched a range of perimeter security products to protect pedestrians and buildings from terror attacks.

The company had previously manufactured conventional outdoor furniture and had established a sales network across the world. It now sells in 26 markets worldwide and its top five markets are UAE, Hong Kong, Kazakstan, USA and Spain. Overseas sales have grown year on year over three years by a total growth of 415%; and the percentage exported has risen from 40.5% to 78%. The company wins the Queens Award for International Trade for Outstanding Short Term Growth in overseas sales over three years.

InspecVision Ltd 

InspecVision Ltd develop, manufacture and sell 2D and 3D measurement systems for inspection of manufactured com- ponents. Their core market is the sheet metal industry with customers producing components for sectors including auto- motive, aerospace and defence. Based in Mallusk, Northern Ireland, and founded in 2003 by Dr Jan Antonis and his father Mike Antonis. They identified a gap in the market for lower cost, faster, easy to use inspection machines. Developed and launched the Planar 2D, the fastest measurement system for 2D parts.

The product range developed to include 3D inspection. InspecVision’s overseas sales accounts for 93% of it’s total sales and doubled recently with growth in key markets such as the United States, China and Europe. Their focus on the US market was a driver in this growth. R&D of new innovative products and development of strategic partnerships are at the heart of InspecVision’s growth strategy. The company wins the Queen’s Award for International Trade for Outstanding Short Term Growth in overseas sales over three years.  

Lord Lieutenant of County Antrim, Mr David McCorkell; Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Councillor BIlly Webb and Deputy Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Councillor Stephen Ross are pictured with Jan Antonis from InspecVision Ltd who was recently awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise.

Texthelp Ltd

Established in 1996, and based in Antrim, Texthelp Ltd is a software company that creates software tools to help people with Literacy and Understanding by making software for students and adults with dyslexia, and for people learning or working in a second language. It believes that everyone’s entitled to the best possible learning and language support on their own personal journey ‘from literacy to life. ‘

The company has offices in Antrim, Boston USA, and in Brisbane Australia. Over the past few years it has had 32 million users of its education software products. Its overseas sales have grown over the last six years by 215%; and the percentage exported has risen to 68%. The USA and Canada are its main markets and it has established new markets in the last six years in: Australia, UAE, Qatar, The Netherlands, Spain, Italy, and Mexico. The company wins the Queen’s Award for International Trade for Outstanding Continuous Growth in overseas sales over the last six years.  

Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Councillor Billy Webb said, “It is a pleasure to be here to celebrate the success of three of our local businesses, InspecVision, Environmental Street Furniture and Texthelp, Each of these businesses is thriving in the face of very challenging times and making a significant contribution to our local economy and community. It is a great achievement that 3 out of the 5 businesses in Northern Ireland to be recognised in the International Trade Category of the Awards are based in our Borough and I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate them for receiving this prestigious honour.” 

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