Why not consult with farmers over geopark?

SIR, —  Yet again, Newry, Mourne and Down Council is expounding the benefits of a geopark to encourage more visitors to the area while, at the same time, crying about how to ‘manage’ all the folk who currently visit. 

Do council officials and our elected representatives not see the irony in all of this? You can’t have your  cake and eat it.

The farming community and others have always maintained that our roads infrastructure cannot cope with a large influx of visitors and their concerns have been proven correct.

However, instead of setting up more management committees to sort out the problem, why don’t those concerned use good old-fashioned common sense?

Put double yellow lines along the affected roads and have the PSNI tour past periodically and impose a £60 fine or tow away offending cars. 

That would ‘encourage’ walkers to use the car parks that are provided especially at Carrick Little, at the very low cost of £3 and 

which, to date, many are reluctant to use.

In other places where prior to this farmers have been refused planning permission for car parks and other visitor facilities, speedily grant the necessary permission and part of the problem is solved.

Also ensure there are plenty of bins for litter.

A senior council director was recently quoted as saying that the local authority “is happy to continue with meetings with the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) and all stakeholders with respect to the geopark. This isn’t strictly correct. 

The council only ‘consulted’ with the farmers at -in events and shows, while the UFU held a meeting in Newcastle last year and invited the council along to put forward its proposal, but declined to do so. 

I have personally asked for a public meeting so that everyone could hear both sides of the argument, but my requests have been ignored. If the council has a sound case for a geopark, why is it so afraid of a public meeting?

It is interesting to note that a multi-agency meeting of stakeholders that the council is planning to organise does not include the UFU or farming representatives, nor the mountain trustees who own most of the mountains crossed.

In addition, residents, particularly those from the Bloody Bridge area who have all kinds of problems with parking and litter, have been excluded from the meeting.

This is exactly what any future management body could look like — an unelected quango of so-called educated people controlling the peasants by telling them what they can and cannot do. Therein lies the similarity with a national park with whatever rules and regulations are made up as time goes on.

It is my understanding that members of the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland who are working with Newry, Mourne and Down Council to push forward the geopark are on record as saying their ultimate aim is for a national park.

Yours etc,