The Environment Minister has said there will not be a National Park in the Mourne Mountains due to the strong level of opposition from farmers and residents.
But Alex Attwood has refuted claims by Ulster Unionist environment spokesman Tom Elliott that he is preparing to drop the whole issue of National Parks — which have been created in every other part of the UK and Ireland.
In Cookstown in August, the Ulster Farmers' Union told Mr Attwood in a meeting he described as “boisterous” that they feared extra land restrictions in the plan for protected countryside.
Last month, more than 1,000 Newcastle residents living around the Mournes told the minister they opposed his plans.
“I have said and say again now that, as things are, the voice of opposition in the Mournes is greater than the voice of support. A National Park cannot be imposed,” Mr Attwood said.