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Case put for national parks in Northern Ireland

Posted 22 August 2012
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Case put for national parks in Northern Ireland
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Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK not to have a national park, something that may seem incongruous to many who like to go walking amid its fine scenery.

One man who is looking to change that is environment minister Alex Attwood, who wants to legislate for two areas to be designated in 2014.

This move by the Northern Ireland Executive echoes the decision by the Scottish Parliament to introduce its first national parks after devolution, a move that saw the Loch Lomond and Trossachs designated in 2003, followed by the Cairngorms in 2005.

However, not everyone is happy about the idea. The Ulster Farmers' Union is opposed, claiming there will be issues over land use and bureaucracy that would leave the sector constrained with what uses land could be put to once designated as national park territory.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Attwood said: "What we are doing is having a model of national parks that recognises that land ownership and the dispersal of a rural community and the size of our faming business is very different from other parts of these islands and consequently our model will be different."

Reports of the meeting indicated many farmers were far from satisfied afterwards and much work may need to be done to resolve this issue.

Mr Attwood's shortlist of potential national parks includes the Mountains or Mourne, the Antrim Glens, the Giant's Causeway and adjacent coast, plus the Fermanagh Lakes.

At present there are 15 UK areas that are either national parks or - in the case of the Broads - have the equivalent status.

While the original 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act led to four being designated by the end of 1951 and six more by 1957, this was not the last word on the matter. The Broads were added in 1989, the New Forest in 2005 and the South Downs in 2010.

In addition to that, the original Cairngorms boundaries were extended southwards in 2010 and Natural Engalnd has recommended the expansion of the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales. 

Put together, these developments would suggest that as Britain's population grows, the desire to proect the best bits of the countryside is also increasing. It may come as little surprise, therefore, that Northern Ireland's lack of a national park is a matter some consider an anomaly in need of correction.ADNFCR-2803-ID-801434594-ADNFCR