Published Tuesday, 19 June 2012
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National Parks in NI
Interview : Alex Attwood
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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.
"I have asked my ministerial colleagues to endorse the principle of having park legislation," the SDLP representative told UTV.
"I hope that will all happen before the holidays, then there will be new law in the assembly - once we have legislation for National Parks we can being the process of designation."
The three sites were chosen from a list of 12 through an independent assessment process.
The first National Park in England was the Peak District, designated in 1951, and Mr Attwood explained the advantages of having local sites take on the status.
He continued: "The Built and Natural Heritage is a big part of the great quality of our lives and a big part of tourism and jobs in the future.
"Northern Ireland is the only part of these islands that does not have National Parks. It is time to grasp the opportunity.
"National Parks, modelled for our circumstances here, can be a strong way to protect our environment and secure jobs.
"I know some will have anxieties - I believe I can give reassurances that see the biggest buy-in possible to National Parks."