Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Giant's Causeway Visitor Centre Controversy

The Giant's Causeway Visitor Centre is in the news and is a subject of intense political debate.

Money spent on the winning and other designs may be money down the drain.

The visitor centre that Foster, the Minister of the Environment, is 'minded' to permit - no 5 above - would appear to be located on the Portbraddan fault or incredibly close to it. It seems a strange place to locate a 'bunker'. The line of the fault is shown on "The Causeway Coast" produced by the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland.

The magnetometer survey covers a different but adjacent area to the competition site because its purpose was to try and establish the position of the Portbraddan fault.

An earlier application by the same developer to build at this location was rejected by the Planning Appeals Commission of Northern Ireland in 2002.

UNESCO-IUCN has also commented in 2003:

However, a number of potential threats exist, including development proposals, which could threaten the values and the integrity of the site. None of these proposals have been through the full planning process and have been approved. No approval should be given without reviewing a proposed development within the context of the protection and safeguarding of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and the World Heritage site and its management.

2.3 Institutional Framework
Under the World Heritage Convention, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is the government body responsible for all World Heritage sites in the UK. The Environment and Heritage Service (Belfast) is responsible for protected areas in Northern Ireland, including the Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast, the only World Heritage property in Northern Ireland. No single World Heritage site manager was identified. [UNESCO 2003 report]
It would appear that Margaret Hodge, DCMS minister, is ultimately responsible for the protection of the status of the World Heritage site, not the Assembly Executive in Belfast.

I understand EHS is also responsible for any part of the Causeway Coast which is an Area of Special Scientific Interest and there appear to be problems with sewage discharge, not just into the bay at Portballintrae but also around the Giant's Causeway headland eg discharge into Portcoon above low water mark from a primary treatment works that serves the current visitor's centre and adjacent properties.

Draft Northern Area Plan 2016: Giant's Causeway World Heritage Site

The Giant’s Causeway WHS is unique, and both an environmental and economic asset to the Plan area and to Northern Ireland as a whole. The Causeway and its immediate environment remain relatively untouched by intrusive human activity, and should remain so. The Department is, however, conscious of its importance to the Northern Ireland economy as a key visitor attraction, and the need to provide appropriate essential facilities in the vicinity to meet visitor needs. The Department considers essential facilities to include a high quality reception and interpretation facility for the understanding and enjoyment of the WHS. Associated facilities may include ancillary catering and retailing for use by visitors. Attractions associated with the site, but not essential for visitor needs will not be acceptable, nor will development generally. Any development will be required to be sited and designed not to cause detriment to the landscape, which is intrinsic to the site’s appreciation, or to scientific interest.

The plan now appears to be in limbo:

Carson McDowell - Litigation Triumph

Carson McDowell Solicitors are today delighted with the outcome of its Judicial Review proceedings against the Department of the Environment regarding the form and contents of the draft Northern Area Plan 2015 on behalf of its client Seaport (NI) Limited.

and there's more:

Carson McDowell sponsors key Planning Conference

Exploring the Future of Planning in Northern Ireland

There has for some time been a consensus that the current planning system in Northern Ireland is not working as effectively as it could to the benefit of all those who depend on it.

The cost of this six hour conference to participants is £229.12. How many Joe And Josie Bloggs can afford this?

Can the future of planning in general and planning for the World Heritage site and its environs in particular be entrusted to cabals of politicians, planners and developers? Planning outcomes would appear to indicate that the current system is not to the benefit of all.