Giant project up for a ‘Giant’ prize

The new Giant’s Causeway visitor’s centre at Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site has been shortlisted for the RIBA Stirling Prize, one of the most coveted awards for architectural excellence.

The £18.5 million centre, designed by Heneghan Peng architects based in Dublin opened in July 2012 and is now the gateway to the 40,000 iconic basalt stones.
The centre, which took two years to build, has also been designed to fit seamlessly within the landscape without impacting the view of the coastline from the stones.

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Amend the Planning Bill – news from Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland has stunning special places: the cliffs and beaches of the North Coast, Fermanagh’s lakelands, the Mountains of Mourne, the Sperrins, cities like Belfast and Derry with their fine architecture and the country’s only World Heritage Site – the Giant’s Causeway.

Such places could be under threat from a Planning Bill which is currently going through the Northern Ireland Assembly. Together with other a range of organisations, we are supporting the ‘Amend the Bill’ campaign to call for politicians to make changes to protect some of the country’s most special places for generations to come; and to deliver a better planning system for everyone.

Amend the bill header

So far more than 4800 messages of support have been sent to politicians across Northern Ireland.

Heather Thompson, National Trust director for Northern Ireland said: “The Planning Bill contains two clauses which focus on economic development which could result in planning applications which aren’t in the best interests of communities and the environment, being approved. We should all welcome the introduction of a more effective system of planning. However we need one that ensures a fair and balanced approach to economic, environmental and social issues, and supports economic development which takes all three into account.

“The Bill also presents an ideal opportunity to bring in protection for World Heritage Sites and their settings in Northern Ireland, which includes the Giant’s Causeway and the countryside immediately around it.

“With the Bill currently in front of the Northern Assembly, it is vital that people speak up now in order to protect our special places for everyone that enjoys them today as well as future generations.”

The Planning Bill reaches an important milestone when it goes to Consideration Stage on 24 June 2013. At this point it is debated on the floor of the NI Assembly.

You can join the discussion on Facebook at and follow us on twitter at @AmendTheBill. There is also a campaign blog with more detailed information at

Residents from outside of Northern Ireland can also register their support by emailing

An online tool has been set up for NI residents at (a NI postcode is needed to use this tool)

Indonesia: Politics and World Heritage

Indonesian Heritage Trust

The celebration of World Heritage Day on the 18th of April 2013 is one of the top activities marking  two decades of the Indonesian heritage preservation movement. ”Heritage for Welfare” is the theme for the year of Indonesian Heritage Year 2013. This event will be celebrated simultaneously by many heritage partners across the country.

Untitled1Jaringan Pelestarian Majapahit (Majapahit Heritage Network), Badan Pelestarian Pusaka Indonesia (Indonesian Heritage Trust) and ICOMOS Indonesia- in co-operation with five ministries of the Republic of Indonesia, (Coordinating Ministry of People Welfare, Ministry of Culture and Education, Ministry of Tourism and Economy Creative, Ministry of Forestry, and Ministry of Public Works) will organise the main World Heritage Day celebrations at Majapahit sites in Trowulan, East Java on 17-18 April 2013.

Significance and challenges at Trowulan:

Believed by historians to be the capital of the ancient Majapahit Empire; many people believe that Trowulan is a sacred site- not only to Hindus and Buddhists, but also for Muslims and Kejawen or Jawi people. Nowadays, many communities that are involved in Trowulan are still based on religious beliefs, but also of art and culture. The institutions that are responsible for conservation efforts at this site are Balai Pelestarian Cagar Budaya Jawa Timur (East Java Heritage Conservation Agency) and Majapahit Museum. Both of which are government agencies.

There are many challenges to the preservation of Trowulan:

•Prolonged neglect
•Lack of coordination between stakeholders.
•Limited awareness of stakeholders in conservation efforts. Especially in the case of brick factories around this site.
•Inconsistencies of plans or programs launched by the government in the past. Because of this many people in Trowulan feel pessimistic if not skeptical about newer comprehensive plans and programs.
•Physical degradation. Due to many structures being buried under ground, there are potential risks from natural disasters such as flooding.
•Physical destruction by brick factories around the site, installment of new houses and roads, to illegal renovation without the assistance or permission from Badan Pelestarian Cagar Budaya Jawa Timur.
•Lack of financial resources provided by the government for conservation efforts, such as limited funding for the heritage site control officer.
•The overall area of Majapahit capital city is not yet defined as a National Heritage Site. There are several temples and areas defined as heritage sites, but many other structures such as canals, are not included.
•The most recent archaeological development plan was developed 1986. This masterplan is hopelessly out of date.
•Most of the sites are not accesible to disabled people.

(Concerned by Trowulan’s historic significance and current suffering condition, BPPI Indonesian Heritage Trust) is raising the public awareness of this site through World Heritage Year 2013. This momentum is expected to encourage commitment from institutions such as the Ministry of Culture and Education to confirm its status as cultural heritage and for the Ministry for People Welfare to endorse the area to UNESCO as a World Heritage Site to help secure it for the future. 

National Trust bitterly disappointed at court ruling on Giant’s Causeway development

We’ve posted previously on our legal challenge to a decision to grant planing permission for a golf course development in the setting of the Giant’s Causeway World Heritage Site. Today the High Court ruled against our challenge.

A National Trust spokesman said:

“The National Trust is bitterly disappointed by the Court’s ruling and we remain convinced that a massive development in the setting of this World Heritage Site is wrong.

“We still believe that if a development of this scale does go ahead in this location, the message is that nowhere in Northern Ireland, no matter how important or protected, is safe from development.

“The ruling today has served to highlight aspects of very serious concern for those partners involved in the care and protection of the World Heritage Site.

“It is essential that we work together to get planning policy right in Northern Ireland to ensure that appropriate development can happen, but not at the expense of our beautiful landscapes and historic places. 

“There are also significant issues regarding the relationship between Government in Northern Ireland, Great Britain and UNESCO that must be addressed to ensure the protection of our World Heritage Site for the long term.”


Runkerry Golf Development – Judicial Review

The National Trust goes to the High Court in Belfast, 9-11 January 2013, to challenge through judicial review the granting of planning permission for a golf resort at Runkerry. This significant development is in the identified setting of the Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast World Heritage Site, Northern Ireland’s only such site.

In 2007, an application for a proposed golf resort was submitted to the Department of Environment,  Planning Service.

The applicant Mr Alistair Hanna, is a former resident of Northern Ireland, now residing in America.

The application is for a proposed golf resort including 18-hole championship golf course, clubhouse, golf academy incorporating driving range, a 3-hole practice facility, 120 bedroom hotel incorporating conference facilities and spa, 75 guest suites/lodges, and associated car parking, maintenance building and landscaping. The proposed development is to be built along the Whitepark Road and Causeway Road to the north of Bushmills and to the east of Portballintrae, County Antrim.

The application was designated one of major importance under Article 31 of the Planning (NI) order on 13 June 2007.

In 2011, Minister Attwood was appointed Minister for the Environment. He announced his intention to expedite outstanding planning applications and clear the backlog to reinvigorate the regional economy.

On 21 February 2012, Minister Attwood announced that after due consideration he intended to approve the Bushmills Dunes planning application. Planning permission was formally granted on 29 March 2012.

The Trust expressed its disappointment at the decision, confirming that it had consistently opposed the planning application, reiterating its serious concerns about the impact on the landscape, the environmental impacts, and the potential threat to the World Heritage Site designation.

The National Trust was granted leave for a judicial review on 27 June 2012.

The judicial review is timetabled for 3 days, running in the High Court in Belfast from 9-11 January 2013. The outcome of the hearing will be known later in the year.

In December, we wrote to our 60,000 Northern Ireland members explaining this significant development is in the identified setting of the Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast World Heritage Site, Northern Ireland’s only such site. We told members:

‘World Heritage Site status is the highest conservation and heritage accolade that any place can achieve, and is awarded by the international body, UNESCO. The land on which this would be built has been identified in the draft Northern Area plan as an area that should be protected and where such development should not take place. This is based on the strong recommendation from UNESCO that there should be a buffer zone to protect the landscape that surrounds this World Heritage Site. In July 2012, UNESCO formally requested the Government to ‘halt the proposed development ….until its impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the World Heritage Site property has been assessed.’

‘As the guardians of the Giant’s Causeway World Heritage Site, we have a duty to care for it for ever. This is the context in which we have taken this judicial review.

‘The Giant’s Causeway is known and loved globally, positioning Northern Ireland on the world stage. It is fundamental to the local economy. We believe that such a development in this protected landscape is wrong – once it’s gone it’s gone. If this development is allowed to proceed in this special place, then the message is being despatched that nowhere in Northern Ireland, no matter how special or protected, is safe from development.’

There’s a useful timeline on the Trust’s care for the Giant’s Causeway here.

Update: timeline link added Friday 11 January 2012.

Note: As we’re in an important stage of this legal process we can’t comment on the particulars of the case so comments have been disabled for this post.

National Trust to challenge Runkerry golf resort decision

The National Trust is initiating a legal challenge to the decision to grant planning permission for a major golf resort and hotel development on green field land at Runkerry.

The conservation charity is seeking leave for a judicial review of the decision to give the go ahead for the development on land between Bushmills and the Giant’s Causeway World Heritage Site.

A spokesman said: “The National Trust has consistently opposed the planning application and in particular has expressed concern that the entire development is on land which is zoned in the draft Northern Area Plan as the distinctive landscape setting of the World Heritage Site in which no development should take place.

“This is based on a recommendation by UNESCO – the body responsible for World Heritage designations – that there should be a buffer zone to protect the special landscape surrounding the Causeway.

“Having carefully considered all the information relating to the planning decision, there remain fundamental issues of concern. We therefore have no option but to seek leave for a judicial review, so that the decision could be given the fullest possible consideration.”

Read more about the history of our objection.