Community against national park status

Published Thursday, 15 November 2012
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There was a resounding voice of opposition at a gathering to discuss the creation of a National Park in the Causeway Coast and Antrim Glens area on Wednesday.

Community against national park status
The Glens of Antrim and North Coast are being considered for the status. (© Pacemaker)

Many in the area are strongly against the move to introduce a National Park status as they are worried it will create a "bureaucratic nightmare" for those living and farming in the area.

Over 600 were in attendance at the meeting in Ballycastle, including residents of Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales.

They encouraged the community to campaign against a national park.

"Lobby as hard as you can to prevent their establishment if you want to retain control of your farming and your farms, and if you wish to operate businesses without interference from an unelected, uncontrollable and dictatorial bureaucracy," said John Thorley from Brecon Beacons.

Earlier in the year Environment Minister Alex Attwood announced his intention to create two National Parks in Northern Ireland, which he claims will boost tourism and jobs in rural areas.

Currently in Britain there are 15 national parks and in the Republic there are six. There are none in Northern Ireland.

The Mournes, the Causeway Coast and Antrim Glens, and the Fermanagh Lakelands, were considered for the status.

The Mournes, Co Down, was ruled out after strong opposition and now the community in north Antrim are worried that their area will be chosen.

Mr Attwood was invited to the meeting, but did not attend because a meeting in Belfast on the security situation took priority. He did say that he still wants to meet interested groups to hear their views.

Once again a very clear message has been sent to the Environment Minister Alex Attwood that farmers and others do not want and will not support a National Park in their area.

Harry Sinclair, Ulster Farmers' Union

DUP MP for North Antrim Ian Paisley Jnr said at the meeting that there was "no appetite" for a National Park.

"Why are we wasting time, money, resources and efforts? We should really move on. Listen to these people," he said.

Ulster Farmers' Union Union President Harry Sinclair said the union was for developing tourism and job creation, but that funds should be directed at tourism promotion and supporting infrastructure development to do so.

He added: "Recently the Minister scrapped proposals for a National Park in the Mournes due to the level of opposition and we are in no doubt that the same depth of opposition is present in the other areas of Northern Ireland earmarked in the National Park proposals."

Olive Dunlop, who owns a hotel and caravan park in the area said the proposal would put a "strangle-hold on private investment".

Declan McCaughan, a local farmer in attendance said the message from the meeting was a "resounding no" to a national park status.

Meanwhile in Co Donegal, Glenveagh National Park has become a major tourist attraction after it was bought over by the Irish government nearly 40 years ago.

Tres Conaghan from the visitor centre there said that the park has become very important to the area.

"It isn't until you go out there and ask people from other visitor attractions, even pubs and restaurants, for example the cultural centre in Letterkenny, the An Grianan theatre, all these places rely on Glenveagh National Park for their businesses to survive as well.

But it seems it will take a lot to sway opinion in North Antrim.

Local farmer Victor Chestnutt told UTV: "We see no benefits and it's an extra layer of needless bureaucracy.

"Farmers have bureaucracy covering almost every aspext of our farming business and we definitely do not need another layer."

© UTV News
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