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Friday, 22 June, 2001, 18:30 GMT 19:30 UK
Row over Giant's Causeway pub plan
Over 400,000 people visit the causeway every year
Over 400,000 people visit the causeway every year
A major row has erupted over plans to locate a pub and restaurant near one of Northern Ireland's biggest tourist attractions.

The dispute centres on proposals to transform a cottage just yards from the entrance to the Giant's Causeway in County Antrim into a public house.

The Planning Service is expected to tell Moyle District Council on Monday they have no objections to the plan.

But the National Trust, which owns the stone phenomenon, has vowed to do all in its power to oppose it.

Scheme

Ruth Laird, Northern Ireland director of the National Trust, said the proposal seemed to fly in the face of planning regulations.

"The Giant's Causeway is the most famous landmark in Northern Ireland, it's our top tourist attraction and our only World Heritage Site and it needs to be protected," she said.

"I am absolutely amazed that the Planning Service is set to recommend planning approval for this scheme.

"What happened to the protection that is supposed to be afforded to sites of outstanding natural beauty?"

The Planning Service said it was considering new representations over the proposal.

Double the size

It is understood the National Trust may seek a judicial review.

The development, which would double the size of the cottage, is within an agreed four kilometre controlled development belt placed around World Heritage Centres.

Mrs Laird said the National Trust was extremely concerned that a development at the cottage, known as the Nook, would set a precedent for the redevelopment of the Giant's Causeway Visitors' Centre, which was destroyed last year by fire.

The National Trust bought the Giant's Causeway in 1961.

The cottage would double in size
The cottage would double in size

The unique sprawl of hexagonal basalt columns that make up the Giant's Causeway, was formed when lava broke through the earth's crust 60 million years ago and cooled as it hit the sea.

It was named after the Irish legend that it was built by Ulster warrior giant Finn McCool so he could walk to Scotland to fight a Scottish giant.

The World Heritage site attracts nearly half a million visitors a year.

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