Councillors have agreed to increase opening hours at Antrim Forum, with the leisure complex set to open from 9am on a Sunday.
Surveys had been carried out with both customers and non-users of the Forum to establish views on the centre’s opening hours.
Councillors heard at Monday night’s monthly meeting of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council that a total of 1,248 responses were received.
In a report presented to the meeting, it was noted that 55% of respondents indicated that they would prefer the Forum to open earlier on weekdays with 32% of these preferring a 6 am opening.
A total of 87% of respondentsindicated that they would be more inclined to use the Forum on Sunday if it opened earlier.
If the Sunday opening hours were at 9am, 59% stated they would use Antrim Forum every Sunday.
Proposing council accept a recommendation to open the Forum from 6.15am weekday mornings, and 9am to 5.30pm on Sundays, Alliance Councillor Neil Kelly said he welcomed the proposal put forward. His proposal to accept the recommendation was seconded by SDLP Councillor Roisin Lynch.
Concerns were expressed by TUV Councillor David Hollis, who said he wanted assurances that no staff would be made to work a Sunday.
UUP Councillor Mervyn Rea said the former Antrim Council had consulted with all the local churches about Sunday openings at Antrim Forum in the past, and asked that a similar move be taken before changing the opening hours.
Party colleague Drew Ritchie said he opposed the additional Sunday opening hours and said it was not an issue which had been raised with him while out meeting constituents.
A vote was taken on Cllr. Kelly’s proposal with 22 in support and 11 against. There were two abstensions.
Speaking after the meeting, Cllr. Kelly said he was delighted his years of campaigning have paid off, adding his previous attempts with the former Antrim Council had been “consistently blocked”.
“After years of campaigning to provide more flexible opening hours at the Antrim Forum, I’m delighted to see the council approve this move,” Cllr. Kelly said.
He added: ““For years those using the Antrim Forum have been penalised because of the outdated views of their elected representatives, while people living in the Newtownabbey area have had full use of their local centre.
“The new Antrim and Newtownabbey Council has succeeded where the old Antrim Council failed – showing its progressive nature and desire to do what’s best for all ratepayers.
“I started this campaign as a lone voice many years ago but gave a commitment to local ratepayers that I would secure access to better services for them, a promise I’m delighted to see realised this week.”