North Antrim group says no to National Parks

ON Wednesday night the group hosted an open meeting on National Parks at the Sheskburn Centre in Ballycastle. An estimated 700 members, local business owners and residents turned out to hear the debate with many giving their own opinions on the proposal for a National Park in the Causeway and Glens of Antrim area.

A number of speakers were invited to take part including the Causeway Coast & Glens Preservation Partnership which is a group of local concerned residents who have formed recently to oppose the formation of a National Park in the area, three residents from the Brecon Beacon’s National Park who gave their views on the reality of living and working within a National Park and the UFU President Harry Sinclair, who gave the union’s perspective on National Park’s.

Unfortunately the main speaker in favour of National Parks, Minister Alex Attwood, who had previously confirmed his attendance and indeed had chosen the date for the meeting, was unable to attend the meeting, having had to pull out a few days beforehand due to other commitments.

The effects of a National Park based on the views of the speakers from the Brecon Beacons and locals who had carried out their own investigations was that it would have detrimental effects, summarised as follows:

l The viability of agriculture could well be jeopardised, with certainly additional bureaucracy and regulations. This could well put farms out of business.

l Management boards would be able to create additional bye laws for the area. There is enough red tape affecting rural businesses.

l Evidence shows that there is no benefit for tourism. Those present from the tourism industry felt that there would be more beneficial methods of boosting tourism.

l The additional cost of setting up and running a National Park would run into several million pounds, a drain on an already stretched budget.

l In the opinion of the Brecon Beacon speakers, overall an unnecessary, expensive and dictatorial system.

The resounding view of those present at the meeting was that farmers are the keepers of the countryside and it’s in their own interest to operate their businesses in the most environmentally friendly way possible.

The current protective status of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the area, combined by the high uptake in current environmental schemes such as Countryside Management, give the whole area a manageable control system at present, so why move to what would appear to be a dictatorial and unmanageable system. Such a system would involve an appointed board being given the authority to dictate to everyone who lives in the area on issues ranging from the type of windows allowed in homes to how to farm your own land! No one would be exempt from the rules and regulations.

After all viewpoints were taken on board the unanimous message from the meeting was that there should be no National Park in the Causeway Coast & Glens nor indeed in Northern Ireland due to the unnecessary layer of bureaucracy and regulations which would be a burden to the agricultural industry, local communities and those living within the designated areas.

Moving on to other group activities, the North Antrim Group have had an extremely busy start to their winter programme season. It was the group’s privilege to host the County Antrim UFU Dinner in the Royal Court Hotel Portrush at the end of October which attracted 200 members and friends to a really enjoyable evening. On the night £3,080 was raised for the nominated charity Cystic Fibrosis so a big ‘thank you’ to all who contributed so generously.

The local silage competition was judged this week by Jonathan McCaughan, from Thompson’s Feeds, with the usual high quality entries and after a closely contested competition Alan Beattie triumphed in the Beef Section and James Reid won the Dairy Section which is even more impressive as he just switched from beef to dairy farming.

Upcoming events:

The group’s annual table quiz will take place on Tuesday 11th December 2012 in Ballymoney Rugby Club at 8pm. The maximum number of entrants per team is four. Light supper will be served afterwards so please come along to what will be an enjoyable and light hearted evening of entertainment.