Environment Minister Alex Attwood has established a panel of experts to review plans to give Northern Ireland areas popular with tourists national park status. Areas being considered include the Mourne mountains, the Fermanagh lakes and the Causeway coast. The issue has been hotly debated for a decade with the plan winning favour with environmentalists but proving unpopular with local landowners and developers who would suffer restrictions on land use.
A public consultation period on how a park would be managed has been extended by a month until the 31st October. The consultation document will look at how a Special National Park might be managed in a way that reconciles both local and national interests, giving proper weighting to social, economic and environmental needs.
The Minister has said
“A model of Special National Parks – that is fit for purpose for circumstances here – is my aim,
This model will be different from that in England and different again from the model in Scotland.
But the argument that Northern Ireland should have Special National Parks, with even better management of park areas, with the potential of positive development, new jobs and critically, respect for the local people and community – is one I believe in and will argue for.”
Ten years ago a proposal to give the Mourne Mountain area national park status appeared to have been agreed, however, vocal opposition from locals effectively ended the idea and although the proposal has remained on the table ever since, there has been no sign of any sort of solution.