No National Park plans for 10 years

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Environment Minister Mark Durkan has reiterated his decision to shelve plans for a National Park in the Causeway Coast and Glens – for at least ten years.

Mr Durkan was responding to a question from Glens councillor Colum Thompson at a meeting of the new super council’s Transition Committee in Coleraine on Thursday evening.

Cllr Thompson said that he welcomed the fact that Minister Durkan was “less enthusiastic” than his predecessor over the matter of a National Park.

“Given the opposition from farmers, businesses and other groups, will you abandon the project?” he asked the Minister.

Mr Durkan replied: “I am aware of the opposition to a National Park in this area.

“I see the value of National Parks and the benefits that they have brought to other jurisdictions in terms of tourism and economy.

“So I would say that I am shelving it rather than scrapping it.”

The Minister said that he didn’t think farmers had been consulted with properly, and that such a project needed to “be done from the bottom up”.

“Sufficient damage was done to the National Park brand in one month that I have difficulty envisaging this succeeding in the next ten years,” added Minister Durkan.

“I would like to start sewing the seeds to get rid of the mistrust among farmers and those opposed to National Parks, to let them see it’s not necessarily a threat.

“It can’t be imposed – it has to be something that grows.”