The issues raised by the opponents to a National Park at the rally in Newcastle last week are not new, and were encapsulated in my detailed submission on the National Park back in 2006. The original Park proposal ignored the lessons of miss-managed Park projects like North Wales and the danger of negative impacts on normal rural development and so forth. (see www.enright.ie/policies/attachment/download-our-submission-on-the-national-park)
While I highlighted these dangers, I also put forward solutions, many of which were adopted in the final report via my predecessor on council Bill Corry who was on the parks working group. Any remaining issues can easily be dealt with given the premise of local democratic control over the Park.
The opportunity for local democratic control was enhanced last week by the publication of the new Electoral Boundaries for the New Down and Newry and Mourne Super-Council. This announcement reflected my submission seeking the transfer of Ballyward, Leitrim and Finnis into the new council are to ensure that the entire National Park will fall within one council area, potentially bound by local planning policy set by the new council.
Having a Parks Authority under the new Super Council would avoid unelected bureaucrats over-ruling our local elected representatives on policy in the park, and would allow the new council-based planning system to set the rules for development in the parks area.
I believe that having the National Park run by a sub-committee of the new Council along with local community and farming representatives would avoid the dangers posed by external rule by a quango or by the Department of the Environment. We may also need representatives from Louth Council, as the Park should include the Cooleys.
Most of the other concerns are of a simple practical nature like insurance for visitors on the land, compensation for maintaining the environment of the park and other details all of which have had solutions identified already.
The President of the Newcastle Chamber of Commerce did not get a fair hearing at the meeting last week. Audrey Byrne speaks for all 7 Chambers of Commerce across South Down who have a joint manifesto on this issue. They represent 670 mostly indigenous small to medium sized enterprises, owned locally and with deep roots in the Mourne area. A National Park would be a local asset generating thousands of local jobs that could not me moved at the whim of a multinational company.
The Killarney National Park area on its own has more tourists than the whole of Northern Ireland put together, this is an opportunity we cannot miss.
Cllr Cadogan Enright, Down Council