Belfast Telegraph

Lord Shaftesbury welcomes Lough Neagh findings and vows to work with Assembly

By Noel McAdam

The Earl who owns Lough Neagh has pledged to work with the Assembly to improve its management.

"I have always wanted to work with the people of the area," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

Lord Shaftesbury said the key issue was the effective and strategic management of the lough.

He welcomed the conclusion of the long-delayed Stormont report, which said there was no compelling argument to nationalise the waterway, which has had mounting problems in recent years.

He said he was gratified that it made clear that his ownership of most of the lough bed was no barrier to potential development.

The Shaftesbury Estate owns most of the land on which the lough rests and portions of the foreshore, but not the entirety.

"I am delighted that the report has now been completed and accepted by the Executive.

"I have always said that I wished to do the right thing about the lough in accordance with the wishes of local people and the wider community, and it is good to know officially what those views are," he said.

"The report indicates clearly that the estate's ownership of the bed and soil is not a barrier to any potential development and that there is no compelling argument in favour of public ownership.

"I wholeheartedly agree with the report's findings, and indeed the (Agriculture ) minister's view that strategic, effective management of the lough is the key issue here.

"I warmly welcome the minister's undertaking to look at new ways in which to improve the management and to working more closely with the many Government departments which will have an input into this very process."

Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill said: "An effective development of Lough Neagh presents real opportunities for rural tourism and economic progress in its surrounding areas and indeed beyond. I want to exploit these opportunities to the full."

A new consultation process on a more representative public management structure for Lough Neagh will now get under way.

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