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  6. Northern Ireland national park debate cranked up

Northern Ireland national park debate cranked up

Northern Ireland’s Environment Minister Alex Attwood has called for a balanced debate and early progress on designating a number of Special National Parks in the Province.

The call came as he launched a consultation on the required legislation and a process of selecting potential candidate areas for designation.

Insisted Attwood: “In my view Special National Parks would be a boost for Northern Ireland. We are fortunate in having not one, two or three but a number of areas that might meet the proposed criteria for such areas of national importance.

“Park status would not only serve to address and enhance their landscape and natural beauty needs, but also deliver long-term benefits through a sustained government commitment.”

He stressed that the model for these new designations would be different from the National Parks in England and Wales and also “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."

Attwood explained that the administration would set up a panel of experts to identify candidates for possible designation as Special National Parks.

He said: “This is not a done deal. Candidates may drop out or put designation on the long finger or one might emerge a front runner but I want a gear change on the issue, balanced debate and early progress. It will be helpful if we have an open, respectful, informed and moderate debate. It is not a time for fixed positions – it is a time for a new debate."

Read the Northern Ireland Executive media release.

Roger Milne

1 September 2011