Attwood to meet farmers on national parks

Published Monday, 20 August 2012
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Environment Minister Alex Attwood will speak with farmers' union members on the designation of the first national park in Northern Ireland.

Attwood to meet farmers on national parks
The Mournes is one area highlighted for national park status. (© Getty)

The Mournes, the Causeway Coast and Antrim Glens, and the Fermanagh Lakelands, are all being considered for the status by Environment Minister Alex Attwood.

Northern Ireland is currently the only part of the UK that doesn't have a National Park, but Mr Attwood hopes two can be designated by 2014 if new legislation goes ahead.

The minister said previously that establishing national park status would mean: "better management of national parklands, better protection for the interest of those who live and work there, including farmers and better arrangements and access for those who want to come, stay and spend their money."

The meeting on Monday evening will allow farmers to voice their concerns about what impact the reclassification would have for farmers in these areas.

The Ulster Farmers' Union has stated that it is "totally opposed" to the proposed legislation for national parks.

"Our members remain concerned that if their land becomes part of a National Park they will be unable to continue farming in a practical way resulting in an enormous impact on their businesses," a statement read.

UFU President Harry Sinclair said: "This meeting is the perfect opportunity for UFU members to speak directly with the Environment Minister about the Designation of National Parks in Northern Ireland.

"The Minister will outline his vision for the implementation of National Parks in Northern Ireland and our members will have the chance to raise any queries that they may have and also to put their views on this important issue directly to the Minister."

In a statement, a spokeperson for the Department of Environment said the minister would "dispel anxieties that such designations would be detrimental to local landowners and rural communities" at the meeting.

They confirmed that the Mr Attwood hopes the Executive will agree in principle to the legislation immediately after the summer recess.

"The enabling legislation will give the Department of Environment (DOE) updated powers to designate areas as national parks. The designation of particular areas as national parks will take place through subordinate legislation after a period of public consultation," the statement read.

"No decision has been taken on what areas may be designated, but Alex Attwood believes two areas should be designated in the first instance. The Minister is determined to lead on the issue, that national parks can protect the environment as well as grow jobs at this time of increasing unemployment.

"Our natural environment is one of our greatest resources which we must utilise in a sustainable way for the benefit of all."

© UTV News
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