Regeneration work is due to get under way at Ballycopeland Windmill, Millisle – the only working windmill in Ulster.
The £1.2 million investment will see the construction of a visitor centre with coffee shop, new access road with car parking facilities and refurbishment of the existing miller’s cottage and kilnman’s house, with work due to commence in early September.
The Department for Communities will invest £700,000, with a further £500,000 coming from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs’ Rural Tourism Fund and £30,000 from Ards and North Down Borough Council.
Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilín said: “Ballycopeland Windmill is very important in many ways. It is the only roller-reefing windmill left in the world. It is one of only a small number of windmills still in working order on the island – despite the fact that there used to be dozens in east County Down – and even rarer as it still retains its original machinery inside, along with its ancillary buildings.
“This project will restore the range of buildings, update the interpretative material, and provide a visitor centre, café and play area. It will build on Historic Environment Division’s work on the windmill itself. It will deliver wide-ranging community and economic benefits to the area. I am therefore delighted that the Department for Communities, Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, and Ards & North Down Borough Council are collaborating on this significant investment to the windmill.”
Welcoming the commencement of the regeneration work, DAERA Minister Edwin Poots said: “This is a great opportunity to invest in our rural built heritage and in so doing enhance this unique tourist offering in North Down. It will also show the link between farming and industry in rural Northern Ireland in days gone by. The project is one of a number of unique rural tourism projects being funded by DAERA, with more opening up over the next two years.”
The Mayor of Ards and North Down, Councillor Trevor Cummings said: “Ards and North Down Borough Council is delighted to support the exciting development of Ballycopeland Windmill, which is a unique visitor asset situated on the Ards Peninsula that’s known for its iconic image. The partnership investment will allow restoration, enhanced facilities and allow more visitors to experience the wonderful site. The project will deliver both community and visitor benefits and we look forward to its successful completion.”