In 2006 the Council Commissioned a Report by Peter Quinn Consultancy Services regarding options for the Council if DARD moved onto or off Necarne, or out of Fermanagh. Note its over ten years since this report was commissioned, the consultants who produced this were not aware of the historic importance the estate, the extent to which the castle and estate are now listed at Grade B+. Neither had they knowledge or experience of Equine Therapy and they were not health professionals who could understand or consider vital health and wellbeing needs intrinsic to Necarne and regional community health and disability needs. Also, Community Asset Transfer was not part of Government Policy and the Programme for Government, and there was no Development Trust NI nor long record of successful examples of such social enterprise, nor record of significant funding from Heritage Lottery Funds and others for saving heritage like Necarne via “not for profit” organisations.
This report which clearly indicates the Castle should be saved and community needs met, is like the Council’s 2011 Irvinestown Village Plan (SEE TAB ON OUR HOME PAGE), the Built Heritage at Risk Report (ALSO ON OUR HOME PAGE), and many Council’s policies – ignored in their current process and criteria they set for Necarne – which abandons the castle, community needs, and equestrian potential.
Key Extracts from the Council’s 2006 report on Necarne.
1.5.4 Many consultees indicated an expectation that, ultimately, CAFRE will consolidate its activities on to a single site and some felt that, in that event, Necarne should be developed as a tourism amenity, with the preservation of the ‘old castle’ being a priority.
2.9.2 However, the annual International Three-Day Event, which has been run since 1994 and is acknowledged as one of the best of its type in the world, attracting most of the world’s best eventing riders has continued; this is one of the facility’s most prestigious activities and needs to be safeguarded.
2.10 Part of the overall property at Necarne is an old, historic castle, which is currently unused and in a very poor state of repair, although the original façade is still largely intact. This was a very beautiful building, which, in its time, was very modern, with several interesting features, and there is a strong body of local opinion, which feels that it should be preserved and reinstated, if at all possible. Locals have suggested that this would be an ideal location for an hotel or similar project, and that there is likely to be some statutory-sector support for such a venture, provided it can meet funders’ objectives. Realistically, unless something is done to preserve the remainder of this building, the whole structure is likely to collapse in the near future, and that would meet with serious local resentment.
3.7 The Current Arrangements at Necarne Are Not Operating in the Way Envisaged When the Council Leased the Property to DARD. The view was that CAFRE’s activities do not appear to be consistent with the running of major events at Necarne, though the original expectation was that an agreed programme of events would be facilitated by the College; according to some interviewees, this has not happened, whether because of perceived disruption to the College’s activities, or because of insurance issues, or because the College’s management do not appreciate the importance of these events to the County (and speculation included all of these reasons). In addition, the whole issue of access and of involvement by the local community in Irvinestown was raised repeatedly.
3.7.1 Secondly, the whole issue of Necarne’s being a facility for use by the entire community seems to have been lost in the transfer to DARD. Fermanagh District Council acquired the estate, in part, at least, for use by the entire community – though, as it was developed, the interests of the equestrian sector became predominant, but not exclusive. That community dimension seems to have disappeared.
3.9.1 The two most trenchant criticisms of Necarne, were that it is being under-utilised by the public and that the post-event management of the overall facilities is inadequate. These issues were raised by a combination of equestrian and local community interests, the latter of whom claimed that usage by, and access for, the public was unacceptably poor; in fact, access appears to be a particularly emotive, local issue in relation to Necarne. That broad perception was well reflected in a comment from one interviewee to the effect that “…the available facilities are not being used enough by the public, because DARD make it difficult through high charges etc….”; this view implies that there is potential, which is not yet being realised, at Necarne, and that was stated directly by one interviewee, in the following terms “The full potential of the Necarne facility has not been reached, due to the lack of encouragement to the outside user from the management of Enniskillen Agricultural College”
Finally, in the context of negative perceptions of Necarne, there was some annoyance that, while the Department was not directly responsible for the major investment at Necarne, it operates as if “…they think they own them…”.
3.9 Necarne Is the Best Facility of Its Kind on the Island of Ireland and Some of Its Competitions Achieve Very High International Recognition.
In particular, the cross-country/eventing competitions at Necarne have gained huge international acclaim, attracting world-renowned international riders, who all commented very favourably on its amenities; they have also improved the County’s profile, through the television coverage they attracted and, despite the failure of the Irish Sport Horse project, Necarne is widely recognised as a ‘first class’ facility.
3.10.1 The initial point-to-point course did this facility no favours – part of it was much too steep and “…too testing…” for horses of this standard and it became less attractive to owners and trainers. However, in 2001, it was re-developed in the area around the castle and is much better since, but it has not been well marketed in its revised form; its image could be changed with proper marketing expenditure.
3.18 The Old Castle Should Be Retained and Re-furbished as Part of Any New Use of Necarne.
Notwithstanding its wonderful façade and its historic importance, the castle is currently derelict and dangerous; it is a potentially major source of insurance risk (though it is not the only source of insurance risk on the overall property). In reality, there is already a need for expenditure on this amenity, in order to improve it from a safety perspective.
3.18.1 On the other hand, there was abundant feed-back from interviewees suggesting that the castle should be retained as a major feature of any new development at this site, and that view was emphasised by the various private sector businesses, who expressed interest in developing a new project at this location.