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Last Updated: Monday, 14 April 2003, 07:56 GMT 08:56 UK
Antrim coast regeneration plan
The Causeway is the province's only World Heritage Site
A plan for the regeneration of Northern Ireland's picturesque north Antrim coast has been announced by the government.

The scheme aims to rejuvenate areas of outstanding natural beauty in the area, including the Giant's Causeway.

The Northern Ireland Office is to launch an international competition for the development of the immediate area around the Causeway.

It is the province's only World Heritage Site.

The competition will also include a design for a new visitor centre.

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

The provision of facilities beyond the Giant's Causeway will have a number of benefits including easing the pressure on the site itself
Ian Pearson
NIO minister

The causeway is Northern Ireland's top tourist attraction, with nearly 500,000 visitors a year.

The NIO minister responsible for Enterprise, Trade and Investment, Ian Pearson, has endorsed the latest proposals, along with Environment Minister Angela Smith.

They said the plan would focus on creating a better spread of tourist facilities in the region.

Mr Pearson said the competition would ensure the visitor centre complemented the status of the Giant's Causeway as a World Heritage Site.

"It will determine the most appropriate location, purpose, nature and scale of facilities in line with the principles of sustainable development and viability in the context of prevailing planning policies," he said.

'Management plan'

Plans are under way to commission a masterplan for the socio-economic regeneration of the wider area, including the Glens Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

"The provision of facilities beyond the Giant's Causeway will have a number of benefits including easing the pressure on the site itself, assisting in encouraging visitors to stay longer in the locality and thus increase spending," said Mr Pearson.

The plan will also focus on bus routes, heritage train, footpaths and cycle routes.

I think that it's very important that we recognise that we have something very special
Ian Paisley Jr
Democratic Unionist MLA
Angela Smith also revealed on Monday there was a proposed management plan for the Causeway.

While current managerial responsibility lay with the two land-owning bodies - the National Trust and Moyle District Council - the Environment and Heritage Service would lead development of the plan, she said.

"The plan will embrace visitor management issues as well as scientific interests associated with the WHS and other national and international designations affecting the site," said the minister.

Democratic Unionist Assembly member Ian Paisley Jr said the international competition was a "wonderful idea".

"I think that it's very important that we recognise that we have something very special (so) let's give it the international expertise that it requires," he said.

SDLP Assembly member Sean Farren welcomed the announcement.

"The competition will not only ensure that the facilities are of the highest standard but will in itself also attract considerable attention and interest to the Causeway," he said.

Graham Thompson of the National Trust said the plan was a "sensible and prudent way forward".

"Competitions of this standard occur throughout the world, and our number one tourist attraction should have facilities to match the amazing natural wonder of the Causeway," he said.




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
BBC NI's Jeremy Mitchell:
"The government has plans for both the centre and the whole area"



SEE ALSO
Council retains control of Causeway
07 Feb 02 |  Northern Ireland
Council to decide on Causeway's future
05 Feb 02 |  Northern Ireland
Giant's Causeway plan scrapped
05 Dec 01 |  Northern Ireland
Row over Giant's Causeway pub plan
22 Jun 01 |  Northern Ireland
Investigation into Causeway blaze
30 Apr 00 |  Northern Ireland

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