Beach moves backed

MOYLE Council is backing moves by the Antrim Glens Tourism group to get official accreditation for beaches in the Glens.

The Glens group contacted the Council and said tourism could suffer because people may not be aware of the quality of the beaches in places like Waterfoot.

In a letter to the Council, Noreen Delargy, Secretary of Antrim Glens Tourism, said: ‘There has been recent widespread media publicity about the Beach Awards 2011 administered by Tidy Northern Ireland. We have no doubt that this publicity is of great value to the tourism industries in the area which have received awards such as our neighbouring Council area of Larne and Coleraine. The good publicity is seen not only nationally but internationally through the internet.

‘The members of the Antrim Glens Tourism group, consisting of about 50 tourism providers, was therefore shocked to see that no beaches in Moyle and particularly in the Glens area received awards.

‘It is obvious that the beaches at Cushendun, Cushendall and Waterfoot are scenically beautiful and clean and should have no more difficulty achieving the standards required for Rural Seaside Awards than those at Carnlough, Ballygally or Drains Bay.

‘In past years it has been surprising to observe the Seaside Award Flags at these beaches compared with their conspicuous absence in the Glens.

‘On contacting Tidy Northern Ireland we were stunned to be told that Moyle District Council had not entered the scheme for the past number of years. We are strongly of the opinion that by not entering and no doubt achieving the Rural Seaside Award for our beaches the Council is being negligent and is doing a disservice to the promotion of tourism in the Glens for which it has a responsibility.

‘Some might suggest that gaining and later losing an award gives bad publicity and no doubt that is the case. However, that is only local and in any any case should not occur if Council and local organisations combine as in the Clean Coast programme. It is a negative attitude which is not acceptable in our public representatives.

‘Antrim Glens Tourism has recently by its voluntary efforts produced very well received publicity material for the Glens.

‘We call on Moyle Distict Council to reverse any policy that exists of not entering the Seaside Awards Scheme, to carry out all that is required to achieve the awards and by doing so assist and co-operative with our voluntary tourism promotion work,’ said the letter from Antrim Glens Tourism.

Representatives of the group, including Donal O’Loan, attended a meeting of the Council and Mr O’Loan called for action to be taken.

Ulster Unionist councillor Joan Baird said the world we are living in necessitates accreditation and she said if Moyle’s beaches did not have that, but beaches in neighbouring areas have, tourism in Moyle could suffer.

SDLP councillor Donal Cunningham agreed and said they were not talking about going as far as full ‘Blue Flag’ criteria but a ‘Seaside Award’.

Independent Glens councillor Colum Thompson said he is in favour of the ‘Seaside’ designation as his main objection to ‘Blue Flag’ status surrounds the impact on the walking of dogs on beaches.

DUP councillor Robert McIlroy said Moyle’s beaches are an asset which need to be valued more and Glens Sinn Fein councillor Noreen McAllister also supported designation being obtained for beaches.

TUV councillor Sharon McKillop also agreed and DUP councillor David McAllister said they had to look at all beaches in the Moyle area including at Ballycastle and Whitepark Bay.