Northern Ireland Planning Service

Minister Paves The Way For National Park In The Mournes

Published on Wed, 25 Sep 2002
A National Park in the Mournes came closer to reality when Dermot Nesbitt, the Minister for the Environment, spoke to a meeting in Newcastle tonight.
"The finest landscapes in Northern Ireland - in areas such as the Mournes, the Antrim Coast and Glens and the Fermanagh Lakeland – are some of our greatest assets. We must act now to ensure that they are properly conserved for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations."
In a key address to the Annual General Meeting of the Mourne Heritage Trust, Mr Nesbitt referred to a study that he had commissioned on the benefits, costs and management implications of establishing National Parks in Northern Ireland.
He said: "This research sets out criteria for National Park designation and concludes that the Mournes is our strongest candidate. I am therefore setting up a working group to consider a framework for such a designation.
"This group will need to identify a suitable boundary and determine what powers should be transferred to a National Park Authority. Most importantly, it will consult local interests to ensure that the proposals have widespread support. It is particularly important that we put together arrangements which will be helpful to the hard-pressed farming community.
"Implementation of the National Park will naturally depend on achieving this consensus. It will also depend on having secured the necessary resources for it to function effectively – resources that I will begin bidding for immediately."
Mr Nesbitt spoke also about other areas in Northern Ireland that are valued for their scenic beauty: "I intend to publish a Strategy for Protected Landscapes by the end of December. This strategy will include putting in place suitable management arrangements in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and consider the need for new AONBs.
"I do not rule out the possibility of one or more of these areas becoming National Parks in the future although I would want to be satisfied that there was support for the designation, and that the resources were available to meet the expectations that would result from such a designation."
The Minister concluded his address by reminding the audience that 2002 was the International Year of the Mountains: "The Mourne Mountains hold a special place in our cultural and natural heritage. I am sure that I can count on the support of the Mourne Heritage Trust in taking forward these proposals to establish a lasting framework for their conservation and enjoyment."

Notes to Editors

  1. Landscapes that have been recognised as being of distinctive character and special scenic value have been designated as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) in order to conserve and enhance their qualities and to promote their enjoyment by the public.
  2. There are currently nine AONBs in Northern Ireland. Four areas –Mourne, Antrim Coast and Glens, Causeway Coast and the Ring of Gullion - have been designated under the Nature Conservation and Amenity Lands Order, 1985. A further five areas were designated under earlier legislation. In addition there are two proposed AONBs in Fermanagh.
  3. The Department commissioned Europarc Consulting to undertake a study on the costs, benefits and management implications of establishing National Parks in Northern Ireland.
  4. The Europarc report sets out five key criteria for the designation of a National Park:
    • the area should be of outstanding importance for its heritage;
    • it should have a distinctive character and identity;
    • there should be both local and national support for its designation;
    • the approach to management provided by National Park designation should meet the special needs of the area; and
    • the area should be large enough to enable the pursuit of multiple objectives through integrated management.
  5. Based on these criteria the report’s authors conclude that the Mourne area is best suited for designation as a National Park. It also recommends the establishment of National Park Authority that would ultimately assume responsibility for a range of functions related to the Park.
  6. For further information contact Paddy Murphy, DOE Press Office, tel. 028 9054 0014.

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