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EDITIONS
Thursday, 7 February, 2002, 10:38 GMT
Council retains control of Causeway
Almost 500,000 people visit the causeway every year
Almost 500,000 people visit the causeway every year
The local council which owns the visitors' centre at Northern Ireland's premier tourist attraction, the Giant's Causeway, has decided not to sell the site.

Moyle District Council had been under pressure to sell nine-acres at the World Heritage site because it could not afford the cost of redeveloping the visitors' centre and car park.

The council met on Wednesday night to consider three options on what to do with the site on the scenic north Antrim coast.

Two developers had bid to buy the land and build state-of-the-art visitor centres to accommodate the 500,000 tourists who come to visit the natural phenomenon every year.

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.

We are absolutely committed to working co-operatively and constructively with Moyle council

Ruth Laird

National Trust

The site itself is in public ownership. But the council was considering bids and development proposals from the National Trust and from a private developer, Seaport Investments, for the visitor centre.

Tourist industry

However, in a surprise move on Wednesday evening, the councillors, meeting in Ballycastle, decided to retain the site.

A last-minute motion calling on the council to reverse its decision to sell the land was lodged by councillor William Graham.

Seymour Sweeney, who owns Seaport, said he was bemused by the council's actions.

"From my point of view and the local people's point of view - those involved in the tourist industry and tourist providers - we are in an unsatisfactory situation," he said.

He said there were wooden huts on a world heritage site and the situation could not be allowed to continue.

The National Trust said it was delighted that the council had decided to keep the site in public ownership.

Funding

Ruth Laird of the National Trust in Northern Ireland said it had to protect "these very precious landscapes" for future generations.

"We want to move on and we are absolutely committed to working co-operatively and constructively with Moyle Council."

A fire destroyed the visitor centre at the Causeway in April 2000 and it has only been replaced with temporary buildings.

It is anticipated that the council hopes to win grants to contribute to the millions of pounds in funding it will need to develop the site.

The Northern Ireland Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment, Sir Reg Empey, outlined potential sources of funding available to rebuild the centre to the council last week.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC NI environment correspondent Mike McKimm:
"Many councillors seemed happy that the site would remain in public ownership"
BBC NI's Mandy McAuley:
"A steering committee will be elected in the next few days"
See also:

05 Feb 02 | N Ireland
05 Dec 01 | N Ireland
22 Jun 01 | N Ireland
30 Apr 00 | N Ireland
Internet links:


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