Enterprise Causeway has welcomed the approval of planning permission and additional funding for the renovation and redevelopment of the former Courthouse building in Bushmills.

The facility, which will be called The Courthouse Shared Space Creative Hub, has been funded under the European Union’s PEACE IV Programme (which is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body), with match-funding provided by the Department for Communities, Northern Ireland and the Department of Rural and Community Development, Ireland.

The €7.8m Courthouse Shared Space Creative Hub project will transform the derelict, Grade B1 listed building into a unique, state-of-the-art space, capable of providing increased opportunities for meaningful, purposeful and sustained contact across all sectors of the community and involving individuals from all backgrounds.

The new building will feature a messy studio; 15 workshop spaces; visitor facilities, a shop and café; meeting, event and retail space; car parking and a garden area – all designed to create opportunities for cross-community engagement, increase understanding and mutual levels of respect amongst communities and create a more peaceful, inclusive and cohesive society.

In addition to the construction and renovation work the project will design and deliver confidence and connecting programmes.

These programmes aim to create opportunities for shared learning experiences to explore and understand cultures, traditions and backgrounds amongst school, youth and community groups, on a cross-community and cross-border basis. Such programmes include a regional sculpture trail project; schools arts and crafts workshops; taster events in traditional maker disciplines such as glass, pottery and textiles; and a community animation and dialogue programme to develop a range of drama and interpretive pieces, focused on exploring the culture and heritage of Bushmills and surrounding areas.

Over the last year the project has engaged with hundreds of community and statutory organisations, school pupils and adults through a series of bespoke craft, arts and heritage programmes.

One element of this activity was the creation of a designated ‘Community Pod’ upstairs in the Designerie, Bushmills. Community members and visitors were able to see plans for the restored building, discuss project ideas with the Creative Outreach Officer and admire some of the work produced, to date, through the outreach activities including artwork created by young school pupils on the Youth Art Challenge programme.

Welcoming the news Jayne Taggart, Chief Executive of Enterprise Causeway said: “When we acquired the building we did so with the long-term vision to support creative businesses, to re-energize the local community of Bushmills and surrounding areas, create new jobs and build a peaceful and a prosperous society by raising individuals aspirations and working creatively and collaboratively together.

“We couldn’t have envisioned back in 2016 just how vitally important a shared space like this would be to unite communities following the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cost of Living Crisis and Brexit. This creative hub will help establish Bushmills as a progressive and forward-thinking village, that seeks to embrace all people and all communities through a shared love of arts, crafts, food, heritage, culture and community space.

“The approval of this planning permission is a significant step in the project’s development and we will shortly be tendering to secure a contractor to begin the restoration and building work, with scheduled completion for December 2023. Coupled with the continued delivery of our community outreach engagement activities, this is an extremely exciting and encouraging time for us and it’s really rewarding to see plans become a reality.

Also welcoming the project developments was Project Manager, Andrew Molloy, from Hamilton Architects, who commented: “We very much share Enterprise Causeway’s positive sentiments on these significant project developments.

“Over the last few months our team have been busy finalising the proposals, which includes the sensitive refurbishment of the listed former Courthouse and the provision of a new contemporary three-storey extension to the rear.

“The proposals have been carefully considered to complement the historic building and to enhance the unique setting of the Bushmills Conservation Area. This exciting project promises to make a significant contribution, both aesthetically and socially, to the historic village of Bushmills and beyond.”

For updates on The Courthouse Shared Space Creative Hub project visit: https://www.enterprisecauseway.co.uk/the-courthouse/ or follow on Facebook @thecourthousepeaceiv

Editorial Notes

Bushmills Courthouse

Bushmills Courthouse was built by the MacNaghten family of Dundarave Estate in 1834, to serve as a Petty Session Court and as a symbol of authority in the area. It is a Grade B1 listed building of significant heritage value. This prominent building, at the heart of Bushmills Conservation Area, has been empty since the late 1960s and was acquired by Enterprise Causeway in 2016.

The Designerie / Makers House

The Designerie was piloted as a social enterprise by Enterprise Causeway in 2015 and as well as providing retail space for local makers and crafters to display and sell their work, it is home to Makers House – a creative hub where like-minded designer makers can collaborate together to make, market, educate, support and build a strong vibrant creative sector on the Causeway Coast.

Additional Funding

In January 2019, Enterprise Causeway secured €5.2m of capital funding from the European Union’s PEACE IV Programme to design and deliver The Courthouse Shared Space Creative Hub. It secured an additional amount of €2.6m through the same programme, in July 2022, bringing the total funding value to €7.8m.

PEACE IV Programme

The Special EU Programmes Body is a North/South Implementation Body sponsored by the Department of Finance in Northern Ireland and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in Ireland.

It is responsible for managing two EU Structural Funds Programmes, PEACE IV and INTERREG VA which are designed to enhance cross-border co-operation, promote reconciliation and create a more peaceful and prosperous society.

The Programmes operate within a clearly defined area including Northern Ireland, the Border Region of Ireland and in the case of INTERREG VA, Western Scotland.

The PEACE IV Programme has a value of €270 million and aims to promote peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the Border Region of Ireland.

For more information on the SEUPB please visit www.seupb.eu