Page last updated at 13:32 GMT, Thursday, 13 December 2012

Environment Committee

Environment Minister Alex Attwood said it needed to be acknowledged that it was not the National Trust alone who financially and materially contributed to protecting Northern Ireland's heritage, on 13 December 2012.

He was responding to a letter the National Trust had sent to its members that said if a golf resort near the Giants Causeway went ahead, "nowhere is safe from development".

A legal challenge is being mounted against the decision to give the go-ahead for the £100m resort.

"There is mountains of evidence out there, of how all of us, in our own ways and collectively, contribute to our natural built and archaeological heritage and I think that needs to be acknowledged," Mr Attwood told the environment committee.

He added he would make no further comment on a matter that was before the courts.

The judicial review into the planning approval for the golf resort will be heard in the High Court in January 2013.

Committee chairwoman Anna Lo questioned the minister on "the delay" in the Marine Bill.

She said the committee had made its recommendations before the summer recess and asked why the consideration stage was yet to come before the Assembly.

Ms Lo also asked about the possibility of Northern Ireland having a national park following the minister's announcement in October that he would not impose one in County Down's Mourne Mountains.

A national park is an area of protected countryside administered by its own independent government-funded body to look after its conservation and promote its benefits.

More than 1,000 people attended a public meeting in September in Newcastle, County Down, where farmers and local residents voiced their opposition to the Mournes being designated a national park.

"Why farmers are not confident about supporting this is because there's a lot of misinformation and there's not enough information," Ms Lo said.

She added that farmers needed more clarity on the restrictions a designation would bring.

Mr Attwood said there had been talks with stakeholders on the matter of national parks and an executive paper had been circulated.

"People should have been given reassurance that there would be no further regulation of the countryside in terms of planning, livestock, crops or in any other aspect of rural living," he said.

"It's a pity that to date, people have not taken the reassurance that has been given."

Environment committee membership

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