Concern over our local ‘National Park’ status

Concern is echoing around the Glens of Antrim and all along the Causeway Coast about the possible introduction of ‘National Park’ status for the region. The area boasts the World renowned Glens, the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and the only UNESCO world heritage site in the North, the Giant’s Causeway among its many prestigious features.

Residents from the tourism, farming and community sector travelled together by bus from Moyle to Newcastle County Down to hear representatives from the Brecon Beacons in Wales relate stories of living within the confines of a National Park.

The Mournes; the Causeway Coast and Antrim Glens, and the Fermanagh Lakelands have been short listed for designation. SDLP Environment Minister, Alex Attwood has confirmed he hopes to designate two of the three locations as National Parks.

Independent Councillor for Moyle, Padraig Mc Shane, who travelled with the party to Newcastle, said; “Nearly nine hundred people packed into the Slieve Donard Hotel to hear about the impact on daily life by representatives from the Brecon Beacons National Park. It would have been nice if the Minister had attended to hear for himself about the toll he is set to inflict on rural communities.

“Locally the proposals, if allowed to be implemented by the Minister, would devastate rural life and the rural character of Moyle as we know it today. The small heritage town of Ballycastle along with the many villages including Cushendall, Cushendun and Bushmills service the needs of rural dwellers and the farming community. If the economy generated from the rural and farming community was extracted from businesses in our towns and villages, even by a small percentage, it would have a devastating knock on effect.

“The Minister is selling the Parks on the basis of Tourism and the Environment.

Farmers and rural dwellers have been the protectors and the custodians of our environment for centuries. Those from the tourism sector were quick to point to the negative impact the designation of a National Park had on their industry. No verifiable, quantifiable or qualitative evidence has been presented by the Minister to support his tourism theory. The contrary was evidenced in full.

Councillor Padraig Mc Shane finished by expressing serious concerns about the Governance of any new body set up to run a National Park.

“Communities and farmers here need absolutely no more legislation telling them what they can and cannot do on their own property. Being an area of outstanding natural beauty brings with it legislation ensuring the protection of the Natural and Built Heritage in the region. If, as proposed by the Minister, an unelected Quango is granted the authority to impose new by-laws, property prices for farmers will suffer stagnation and regression as happened in England and Wales”.