MOYLE Council heard at its meeting on December 6 that its bid for funding from the Rural Development Programme for a tourist information centre at Bushmills was unlikely to be successful.
This news came in a letter from DARD stating that the project would not be value for money.
Councillor Joan Baird (Ulster Unionist) said she was devastated when she read the letter from DARD.
Councillor Baird said: “I understood the project was successful as the local assessment panel had decided to make an offer of funding, but after DARD intervention this has now been withdrawn. I am very annoyed; Bushmills is the hub for tourism in Moyle District and indeed the whole of Northern Ireland as thousands of people pass through each year on their way to the Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge.
“The current provision for tourist information is totally unacceptable, it is at the National Trust’s building at the Causeway and you have to pay £8.50 for the privilege of going in there.
“I looked at this just two weeks ago and the only local facility displaying information was the Bushmills Distillery. There were copies of local guide books and an on-line screen but this is hopeless for visitors, especially foreign people who do not have English as a first language.
“Anyhow having to pay to go in to the centre at the Causeway is a big disincentive; in fact it’s a total disgrace.”
Councillor Baird went on to draw comparisons with other tourist facilities and in particular she pointed to the FE McWilliam TIC at Banbridge.
She said: “Banbridge has a state of the art facility at the roundabout at The Outlet, they have a fabulous restaurant there with a garden displaying work of the world renowned sculptor, FE McWilliam.
“Here (in Moyle) we have the most prominent tourist attraction in the whole of Ireland and we have only a half-baked facility offering leaflets at the Causeway”.
Councillor Baird called on Moyle Council to seek an urgent meeting with the Permanent Secretary in DARD and the head of the NI Tourist Board. She added: “I am not going to let this go until I have secured a decent fit for purpose tourist advice centre for Bushmills which will maximise tourist spend in our local economy in Moyle.”