There has been a mixed response to the recent news that traffic could be banned through the Dark Hedges trees near Stranocum.
One of the most ardent supporters of the international tourist attraction, local photographer Bob McCallion, whose pictures of the Hedges have earned him many awards, has hit out that while the recent announcement is welcomed it is too little too late.
Taking to Facebook to vent his feelings, Mr McCallion said: “According to Mervyn Storey, Chairman of the Dark Hedges Preservation Trust (DHPT), “up to 100 people visited the attraction every day”. I have counted many more than that in one hour, and that excludes coaches! I wish these ‘trusts’ and the other organisations who are still “in the early stages of consultation” over the closure of Bregagh Road would visit the area and see the problems for themselves.
“They seem to be in denial, or do not want to know the terrible destruction and extreme danger that exists at the site. This has been happening for at least five years!”
Mr McCallion also criticised the progressing of any road closure decisions as ‘snail’s pace’ stating that
He added: “I have been told that the formal paperwork for the long term closure of Bregagh Road (2017 or beyond?) is imminent. However the actual decision refers to the issue only of a notice of intention in the Autumn and NOT a decision to close one of the most dangerous roads in the country now.
“Words escape me when I read things like “could have traffic banned” and “early stages of consultation” especially after five years of wreck and ruin at the Hedges. I think a lot of these people are in denial or out of touch with the real problems at the site. Some words of wisdom by Councillor Darryl Wilson - “lack of action has unfortunately caused irreparable damage”. I hope Councillor Wilson won’t mind if I expand on this - “lack of action has unfortunately caused irreparable damage which could result in serious injury/fatalities (eg weakened trees falling on vehicles) if Bregagh Road is not closed to traffic, NOW!!”
Agreeing with Mr Callion’s concerns Mr Robin Swann, MLA called for a ‘balance response’ to the Dark Hedges stating “a delicate balancing act is the sensible approach which must be taken to the increasing traffic scenario”.
Assemblyman Swann issued his appeal after receiving written confirmation of traffic measures from TransportNI’s Northern Division.
Mr Swann continued: “That while it is important that measures are put in place to protect the trees from the pressures of the increased additional traffic, it is also vitally important that the site is managed to accommodate both the needs and interest of tourists and local users.
“The Dark Hedges have become a world tourist destination and I hope that TransportNI, The Dark Hedges preservation Trust and the Council can come forward with a proactive solution that meets the needs of everyone and could encourage even more tourists into North Antrim.”
The Northern Division had told Mr Swann: “Following discussions with Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Causeway Coast and Glens Heritage Trust, Dark Hedges Preservation Trust and other interested parties, TransportNI has agreed to facilitate implementation of a Traffic Order prohibiting vehicles from using the Bregagh Road between Ballinlea Road and Ballykenver Road.
“There will, of course, be the usual exceptions for statutory authorities, landowners etc. It is also proposed to prohibit buses from using the Chatham Road and Doughery Brae nearby. Initial formal consultation with the council and PSNI is now underway.”