Farmers relieved as national parks legislation shelved

Tuesday, 12 November, 2013

Ulster Farmers’ Union President Harry Sinclair has welcomed Environment Minister Mark H Durkan’s decision to not take forward enabling legislation for national parks saying that farmers will be relieved that the legislation proposals are to be shelved.
UFU President Harry Sinclair said; “The National Parks debate has been ongoing for nearly a decade and farmers living in the Mournes, the Glens of Antrim, and the other areas earmarked as possible national parks will be breathing a sigh of relief today. Farmers have never taken the proposals lightly and from the outset we have painstakingly analysed information, including experiences from other areas, to develop a measured and considered position on national parks.

“We have routinely raised a long list of concerns including: being unable to farm in a practical way, access to land, liability, and increased red tape all of which will have an enormous impact on farm businesses. Fundamental to this whole issue is the debate around land ownership. The vast majority of land in Northern Ireland is privately owned, which is completely different to elsewhere in the UK and the Republic of Ireland where national parks have been established. In fact, here in Northern Ireland even access to publicly owned land is restricted. We have outlined our concerns numerous times but the answers we have received have not addressed our concerns fully. Also, no one has yet proved or qualified what the benefits will be to the landowners, who ultimately will be the most affected by a national park designation. Instead of spending millions of pounds establishing and running a national park we believe the money would be better spent enabling local areas to promote and develop their own tourism and recreation opportunities.

“We have always argued that only those living within any possible national park area, rather than those who live outside the area who think that a national park is a good idea, can decide if such a designation will be of benefit to them and their area. I believe the Environment Minister has recognised the overwhelming opposition from not only the farming community but also from local residents and business owners and until our concerns are fully addressed and the benefits to landowners are clearly demonstrated, it is naive to think that our position will change."