- 05 September 2012
Environment Minister Alex Attwood will meet members of the Ulster Farmers’ Union as part of his initiative to designate Northern Ireland’s first national park. The Minister said: "I have already made clear that I want to bring enabling legislation for national parks before the Assembly at the earliest possible moment. I therefore welcome the opportunity to meet with UFU members and I look forward to answering their questions. My argument is clear and certain; the scale of our natural heritage is unsurpassed on these islands. It needs protection and management. Together with farmers this is and can be done. And in so doing, we create jobs and economic growth. With over 60,000 people out of work, and more to come, I have a responsibility to the entire community to try and help. National Parks offers this chance."
Alex Attwood continued: "I appreciate that farmers have concerns about how National Parks might affect them but we can have a model that reflects our particular circumstances, including land ownership. The Northern Ireland model can take what is best elsewhere, work up what is best for us and achieve a win-win; a win for all local interests in park areas and a win for the people and economy of Northern Ireland."
The Minister cited the example of the oft-repeated claim that most national park land in England, Scotland and Wales is publicly-owned. Alex Attwood said: "This is not the case. It is true that we have a different pattern of land ownership here, with smaller family-owned farms. That is why I am advocating a National Park model that reflects this local pattern. I have heard it repeated that National Parks will bring extra restrictions for farmers. As my Department’s consultation document made clear, this will not happen. I will say this to the UFU tonight. I hope they will hear my message."