Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

National Trust rejects claims made by developer

The National Trust has dismissed an attack by developer Seymour Sweeney while he was lobbying for his Giant's Causeway visitor centre project.

The Trust spoke out after details of comments reportedly made by Mr Sweeney to civil servants were obtained by the Belfast Telegraph.

According to an official account, Sweeney rounded on the charity's management of the Causeway, and alleged that it reinvested Causeway profits in other locations.

The Trust has firmly rejected the claim and said looking after the Causeway actually costs it money.

Mr Sweeney has faced opposition from the charity for years over his plans for a commercial Causeway visitor centre development.

Documents released under Freedom of Information law show that Mr Sweeney met Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) officials in January 2004, accompanied by DUP MLA Ian Paisley Jnr.

DETI's official record of the meeting shows that the civil servants were pressed to accept private sector involvement at the Causeway.

DETI's records state: "Mr Sweeney said that the Giant's Causeway itself had never been so badly managed as it is now.

"He said that, while the National Trust claimed not to have money for the upkeep of the site, in fact they made a profit from it which was then reinvested elsewhere. "

In a response, the Trust strongly defended its Causeway record and pointed out that its work there had been commended by UNESCO.

It said: "The National Trust's investment at the Giant's Causeway is substantially more than the income generated at the site.

" The additional investment by the Trust ensures the upkeep of the World Heritage Site in line with UNESCO's requirements."

Mr Sweeney's company made no comment.

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