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Plans for ‘safe zone’ to protect open water swimmers at Oxford Island

Plans are afoot to create a safe zone for open water swimmers at Oxford Island.

The proposal will be tabled presented to Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council later this month.

SDLP Craigavon Councillor Declan McAlinden hopes to see part of the shore demarcated with signage and buoys to protect swimmers from motorised boats.

“This proposal has come out of the need for individuals to feel safe without the fear of collisions with motorised crafts in the open water,” he explained.

“With our leisure and swimming facilities currently closed due to lockdown regulations, many people are turning to
our Lough to swim. Open water swimming has exploded and it is great to see.

“We have now arrived in spring and coming up to the summer months, we will have more activity on our water. To prevent any such one-off incident of a motorised craft colliding with an individual, this proposal makes perfect sense and will be a great success to everyone.”

Councillor McAlinden says he has already received overwhelming support but stressed the importance of Council taking the lead on this initiative, and to consult on the views of those local clubs and enthusiasts.

He added: “I want our Borough to be safely enjoyed by everyone and Oxford Island and Kinnego Marina are very popular with swimmers, kayakers and sailors. The Lough does, of course, need to continue as a harbour and zoning off an area for recreational use strikes an appropriate balance between this and the needs of those wishing to take part in activities other than sailing.

“In preparation for Summer, I will also be asking Council to increase general awareness of the restrictions and hazards with improved signage at all open water facilities. The signage will highlight potential hazards to users and list all the restrictions and prohibitions such as swimming.

“I would be keen to see this extended right across our Borough to other tourist attractions at Kinnego Marina, Maghery and Gawleys Gate and others. I will be asking council officers to bring back a report to committee on where this is viable within our Borough.”

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