If the Bushmills Dunes golf resort goes ahead, it will send out a message that nowhere in Northern Ireland is safe from development, no matter how special or protected.
That’s the stark warning from Heather Thompson, the National Trust director for Northern Ireland, in a letter she is sending out to almost 60,000 members this week.
She was outlining the reasons why the trust has launched a legal challenge over the decision by Environment Minister Alex Attwood to green light a £100m golf resort and spa just over a mile away from the internationally renowned Giant’s Causeway World Heritage Site at Runkerry, which lies between the Causeway and Bushmills in Co Antrim.
In her letter, Ms Thompson points out that UNESCO has formally requested Government to halt the proposed development until the potential impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the Giant’s Causeway has been assessed.
“As the guardians of the Giant’s Causeway World Heritage Site, we have a duty to care for it for ever,” Ms Thompson said.
“If this development is allowed to proceed in this special place, then the message is being dispatched that nowhere in Northern Ireland, no matter how special or protected, is safe from development.”
Ms Thompson added she recognises that the economy needs support, pointing out that the National Trust annually employs more than 470 people and has invested more than £45 million in Northern Ireland in the last three years alone.
A DoE spokesman said: “It is four weeks to a judicial review hearing on the Runkerry decision and DoE fully respect the authority of the court in this regard.
“The minister has made it very clear that it is his aim to rigorously protect the natural environment whilst seeking sustainable job opportunities.
The dispute over whether to allow the £100m Bushmills Dunes golf resort and spa to be built just over a mile from the Giant’s Causeway has dragged on for 10 years. It would include a championship golf course, golf academy, 120-bedroom hotel and 75 garden lodges. The National Trust is seeking a judicial review of the decision, saying it runs contrary to a range of Planning Service’s own policy.