Belfast Telegraph

Access tunnel could protect Game of Thrones Dark Hedges

By Rebecca Black

A tunnel could be built under one of the most famous thoroughfares in Northern Ireland, it has emerged.

However, the chairman of the Dark Hedges Preservation Trust has emphasised that if it goes ahead, it will not damage the roots of the trees.

The tunnel is being discussed as a potential way to ensure the safety of the estimated tens of thousands of annual visitors to the north Antrim attraction on the Ballinlea Road close to Stranocum.

Two planning applications are currently being considered, which aim to create a footpath from a nearby cafe to the entrance to the Dark Hedges, and to alter the road layout.

The Coleraine Chronicle has reported that an amendment may be made to one of these applications to create a tunnel under the road.

Causeway Coast and Glens Council said any such proposal would need to be considered by planning staff.

It is understood that last night an adapted planning application had not yet been submitted.

Chair of the Dark Hedges Preservation Trust Mervyn Storey told the Belfast Telegraph that the tunnel is just one of a number of options being considered.

"There are ongoing discussions about having a viable safe way of having people moving in the area," the DUP MLA said.

"A tunnel is one of a number of options that are being considered. As of October 30, it will not be legal for people to be driving on the road, but we still haven't got a parking solution and that's what we need."

The Dark Hedges became famous when it was used, briefly, as the King's Road in the smash-hit HBO television show Game of Thrones.

From attracting a few 100 people a year, it is now bringing tens of thousands from across the world to see it.

"The difficulty is that we need the traffic management solution, and that's what we have been struggling to get," said Mr Storey. "It is still in discussion stage."

A council spokesperson for Causeway Coast and Glens Council said it hopes to have an operational strategy in place for early November.

Belfast Telegraph

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