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Last Updated: Monday, 10 September 2007, 15:11 GMT 16:11 UK
No public cash for tourist centre
Giant's Causeway
The Giant's Causeway is Northern Ireland's top tourist attraction
Plans to spend 21m of public money on a visitor centre at the Giant's Causeway are to be dropped, Economy Minister Nigel Dodds has said.

He said his department and the Tourist Board had become involved "because key stakeholders had been unable to reach agreement".

Earlier Environment Minister Arlene Foster said she wanted the centre to be built by a private developer.

She said she would make a formal decision at the earliest opportunity.

The previous visitor centre on the site burned down in April 2000.

Nigel Dodds said his department had been involved as "a potential developer of last resort".

'Excess'

"It would not be a prudent use of taxpayers' money to proceed further in the circumstances, given Minister Foster's position on the private sector planning application. The DETI/NITB project would cost in excess of 21m," he said.

The Causeway attracts nearly 500,000 visitors a year.

Renowned for its polygonal columns of layered basalt - resulting from a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago - it is the only World Heritage Site in Northern Ireland.

Ms Foster said she had visited the site and there was considerable merit to the Seaport Investments Ltd plan for a new Visitor and Study Centre at the site.

"I have asked my officials to engage with the developer and key local stakeholders on some aspects of the proposal so that I can make a formal decision on it at the earliest opportunity," she said.

The assembly is due to debate the issue on Tuesday.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
BBC NI's Martin Cassidy speaking about the proposal



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