Belfast Telegraph

Dark Hedges car ban: Enforcement needed to prevent motorists flouting restriction

By Jonathan Bell

A ban on cars and coaches driving along the Dark Hedges road must be properly enforced, campaigners have said.

From October 30 all vehicles - bar emergency vehicles and those requiring local access - will be prohibited from driving down the beech-tree lined avenue of the Bregagh Road, near Armoy made famous by its brief appearance in Game of Thrones.

Campaigners have welcomed the move saying it is required to protect the site from damage but active enforcement was needed.

The Department of Infrastructure said it was still considering how to put the restriction in place, but enforcement of the ban was the role of the police.

Bob McCallion campaigned for a restriction on traffic on the road but only for busy times. He said the Department for Infrastructure needed to put measures in place to stop motorists flouting ban.

"They have gone further than I thought they would, but it is something that should have been done years ago," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"While the damage to the trees is irreversible, at least it has been stopped. But for me it is a death trap.

"You have cars, coaches, people and tractors all vying for space. For me this is more about public safety.

"But for this ban to work, they need to enforce it, not just put up a couple of signs. We already have those and no one pays any attention to them."

Dad of two Jonathan Hobbs snapped a picture of traffic chaos at the location at Easter which sparked renewed calls for measures to be introduced.  He too questioned how the department would enforce the ban.

"At Easter there were just cars and coaches everywhere with people beeping horns and trying to get out of the way. It was horrible," he said.

"This has to be welcomed and those involved, from the council to Transport NI should be congratulated on their work to bring this about.

"It is an important piece of heritage and important to tourism and it is right that it is protected."

A Department for Infrastructure spokesman said: “As part of the measures to deal with the growing attraction and associated traffic problems and impacts on the 'Dark Hedges' trees the Department for Infrastructure was asked to bring forward an order to prohibit traffic from the Bregagh Road near Armoy.

"This legislation was subject to public consultation which was advertised in January and four objections were received. After careful consideration of the issues raised by the objectors the Department decided that it was appropriate for the traffic to be prohibited from this road. The Order comes into force on the 30 October."

It continued: "Whilst the enforcement of this legislation is for the PSNI to manage, the Department is hopeful that the many local visitors and those from further afield will adhere to the parking restrictions put in place to protect the now iconic location.

"The department will continue to work closely with Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council and Tourism NI to enhance the visitor experience along the Causeway Coast and Glens in a safe and sustainable manner and to ensure regular visitors and tour operators are aware of the new arrangements and alternative parking facilities.”

Police have been asked for comment.

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