The National Trust has today responded to a report published by UNESCO following their visit to the Giant’s Causeway in February 2013 to assess the impact of the Runkerry Golf Resort development on Northern Ireland’s only World Heritage Site.
The report recommends that: “the proposed golf resort development project…should not be permitted at its proposed scale and location in order to avoid adverse impact on the landscape setting and important views of the property, which are part of the property’s Outstanding Universal Value.”
Heather Thompson, Director for the National Trust in Northern Ireland said: “Today’s independent report from UNESCO on the Giant’s Causeway World Heritage Site raises major concerns regarding the significant impact of the Runkerry Golf Resort on this special place. It also highlights serious gaps in the law regarding the protection offered to such sites in Northern Ireland.
“Protecting our only World Heritage Site, and other special landscapes in Northern Ireland can only be served by fixing our broken planning system.
“In February 2013 we welcomed Minister Attwood’s invitation for UNESCO to visit the Giant’s Causeway. Today, we share the very serious concerns expressed by UNESCO.
The National Trust challenged the process of planning approval for the proposed development in January 2013 via a judicial review. It was disappointed with the ruling which will allow this massive development in the setting of this World Heritage Site to proceed.
The National Trust will not be appealing the Court’s decision, instead it will be actively seeking ways to influence changes to the Planning Bill currently going through the Northern Ireland Assembly which it believes should give full protection to World Heritage Sites.
The report to the World Heritage Committee states that UNESCO:
· Regrets that the State Party (UK Government) did not keep the Committee fully informed about the Runkerry golf resort development prior to any decisions being taken;
· Reiterates its request to the State Party to halt the proposed golf resort development project until its potential impact on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property has been thoroughly assessed;
· Invites the State Party to consult the World Heritage Centre and IUCN on potential modifications and alternatives to the golf resort development project to avoid adverse impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property;
· Strongly encourages the State Party to consider strengthening its legal provisions and planning framework to allow the national authorities to ensure their responsibilities for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention at the national level.
· Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2014, a report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above requests, as well as a copy of the Environmental Impact Assessment of the proposed Runkerry golf resort development.
Heather Thompson, continued: “This much loved global icon is our only World Heritage Site and as such plays an important role in our economy. It is also a place that many people in Northern Ireland, and beyond these shores, feel passionately about.
“The report underlines that the law in Northern Ireland does not afford the protection they – or indeed local people – would expect for such important places. It is essential that legislation and policy are strengthened to provide this protection urgently. There is a short window of opportunity to act on this now, while the Planning Bill is making its way through the Assembly.”