At a special meeting of Down Council on Monday 12th December 2012 to discuss its policy on Mournes-based National Park, it considered a presentation from Tony Gates, Chief Executive, Northumberland National Park.
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Following the presentation a wide range of concerns were discussed by members present, especially concerning fears expressed at recent public meetings that the local population living in the park could be adversely affected by planning issues and farming practices might have to change.
Tony Gates, a Tyrone man who has lived and worked in the Mournes area, explained that a National Park in the UK has no powers to compel farmers in any way, and in Northumberland the Parks Authority was instrumental in securing Environmental funding payments to farmers who wanted to support the work of the park on a voluntary basis.
Following questioning on planning issues by Cllr Cadogan Enright, Tony Gates confirmed that under the 1949 Parks Act, National Parks could operate as a sub-committee of the Council for planning purposes. Cllr Enright said that this approach might ‘square the circle on the park between its supporters and detractors and ensure that the local populations interests are secured’.
It was proposed by Cllr Eamonn O’Neill that Council management write to Minister Attwood restating the Councils support for the National Parks proposal for the Mournes area. He accepted an amendment from Cllr Enright that the letter of support should firstly emphasise the idea of copying the English 1949 Act and ensure that the National Park operated as a sub-committee of the new ‘Super-Council’ and secondly, reflect the desire of the Irish Minister for the Environment and Louth County Council to have a cross-boarder “Euro-Park” approach to this project.
Council members confirmed existing policy in favour of the park and requested Council Management to write to the Minister in this manner