Survey work taking place on Mournes tourism plan

Survey work taking place on Mournes tourism plan

9 October 2019

AMBITIOUS plans to revolutionise tourist facilities in Newcastle are making significant progress.

It has been confirmed this week that ground condition survey work is taking place at the base of the Mournes where a new a gondola ride into the heart of the mountains would be based.

In addition, Newry, Mourne and Down Council has confirmed that it is planning to appoint a dedicated team to deliver an outline business case designed to pave the way to secure funding to help build the project. 

An economist is also to be appointed to help with the delivery of the business case which is expected to be completed in early spring or summer.

A series of highly ambitious proposals aimed at shaping future touri st provision in Newcastle are among the key projects included in the local council’s bid for a share of £1bn investment package under the Belfast City Regional Deal.

City Deals are packages of funding and decision making powers which allow councils to boost the economy through the development of large projects in their respective areas. 

The deals are designed to allow councils take responsibility for decisions that affect their areas, do what they think is best to help businesses grow, create economic growth and decide how public money should be spent.

Newry, Mourne and Down is one of five local authorities paired with Belfast City Council, universities and the private sector who have committed £100m to help deliver a raft of schemes, with the remainder of the cash coming from the Treasury and Northern Ireland Executive.

Local authority officials are expected to work with Tourism NI to help deliver the ambitious proposals aimed at shaping future tourist provision in Newcastle. 

The world class attraction proposals include the gondola ride into the heart of the Mournes and an ultra-modern visitor centre at the site of the old quarry at Thomas’ Mountain with the proposals expected to be delivered with the help of a range of funding partners to significantly increase the number of visitors to the resort.

Other proposals include an Alpine coaster ride enabling people to hurtle down the side of the mountain on a single track in a buggy.

Newry, Mourne and Down is hoping to secure £35m from the Northern Ireland Executive and is committing £7m of ratepayers’ money to fund the proposed gondola ride and visitor centre. 

Council officials are also working alongside Tourism NI to secure financial backing for other aspects of the tourism investment and support to move the various projects through a series of key stages, including the preparation of business cases and planning approval.

Other aspects of the scheme include an elevated tree top walk in Tollymore Forest Park, a new visitor centre and bird hide at the Murlough Nature Reserve and a new bridge constructed under the main Kilkeel Road at the Bloody Bridge on the outskirts of the town.

Consultants appointed by the local authority to look at developing the resort’s visitor infrastructure have also come up with proposals for the Islands Park, with upgrades planned for existing car parks, alongside new public toilet provision. 

There are also proposals to reduce the the tree line in Donard Forest on the slopes of the Mournes.

A so-called green travel network which would allow visitors to hire bicycles and electric bikes to make their way round various attractions is also suggested.

The various proposals form the core of the Mourne Mountains Gateway Study and have already been discussed with the National Trust, Forest Service and Environment Agency and other key players.