27/08/2008

National Trust Calls For Causeway Cash

The previously controversial re-development of Northern Ireland's premier tourist attraction, the Giant's Causeway, has moved to a new stage.

Owners, the National Trust yesterday launched an appeal for £1 million so it can buy a stretch of prime headland nearby.

It said the planned Runkerry Head deal will help preserve the coastline, which boasts spectacular views and is rich in wildlife.

Members of the conservation charity have received a circular asking for donations to fund the purchase.

The move is part of the Trust's UK-wide Neptune Campaign to preserve coastal areas.

Earlier controversy followed news that property tycoon Seymour Sweeney had become involved in an ongoing battle with the group over development at the Causeway - the only World Heritage Site in Northern Ireland.

The National Trust has submitted a plan for a visitor centre at the famous setting, while Mr Sweeney is still appealing the rejection of his proposals for a similar complex.

Mr Sweeney's company, Seaport NI Ltd, said the reasons for the refusal were "not sustainable".
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Previously NI Environment Minister Arlene Foster had said she was "minded" to approve the plans.

However, in January this year, she said the proposal would have an "adverse impact on the world heritage site".

Runkerry Head has two miles of coastline and 82 acres of agricultural land of "high bio-diversity value", the trust said.

The Regional Director of the conservation charity, Hilary McGrady, said: "In securing Runkerry Head the trust will be able to offer visitors a fabulous circular two-mile walk and further add to Causeway Coast Way.

"This acquisition will mean that visitors to this area have even more access to enjoy the beautiful coastline. It will help protect the biodiversity and conservation of the site."

The charity hopes to 'farm' the land appropriately to provide suitable homes for birds including the lapwing.

Its Neptune Coastline Campaign was launched in 1965 to help care for the coastline - and helped the trust acquire the Carrick-a-Reed site and parts of Rathlin Island.

See: Causeway Could 'See More' Of Sweeney

(BMcC)

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