Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 31 May 2016

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Greens call for opening of land to ramblers

By Noel McAdam

Published 29/02/2016

Holistic view: Claire Bailey
Holistic view: Claire Bailey

Increased access to huge forbidden countryside and coastal areas across Northern Ireland has been demanded at the Green Party's annual conference.

Land and paths where there have been no objections for a decade should be automatically opened to the public, the gathering in Belfast on Saturday heard.

Members backed a motion that said the increased access should include "the freedom to roam over mountain commonage and areas of livestock grazing".

Party member Daniel Barrios O'Neill said: "There are far more areas which are not available to the public in Northern Ireland compared to, say, Wales.

"What we want is to ensure that where there is no issue, there is some mechanism to ensure that access can become a right."

He said that the Department of the Environment had carried out a public consultation in 1999 which had since been shelved as a result of landowners' objections and concerns over liability.

Mr O'Neill, the party's candidate in Lagan Valley for the next Assembly election, said: "The idea of a 10-year period comes from the South, where it is already Green Party policy."

But he accepted that objections to the opening of a particular area could include the rights of endangered or protected species or changing land use to cultivated crops.

Among a series of debates, on the European Union referendum members said that while EU institutions were far from perfect, "the UK is considerably better off remaining a part of the European Union and reforming it from within, than walking away from it altogether".

The party's deputy leader Claire Bailey said: "We recognise that we need to take a holistic view of the future.

"The EU institutions, while far from perfect, have given us many benefits such as defending workers' rights, freedom of movement, protecting the environment and, of course, the European Human Rights Act."

She added: "If we want to see changes, we need to be in the European Union to achieve those changes."

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