Belfast Telegraph

Pictured: Drivers flout Dark Hedges road ban causing traffic chaos

By Jonathan Bell

Permanent barriers must be put in place to prevent motorists flouting a ban on cars driving along the famous Dark Hedges road, or the hugely popular tourist attraction will be lost.

That's the call from one campaigner after he photographed scores of vehicles flouting a traffic ban.

The historic and beautiful tree-lined avenue, the Bregagh Road - known as the Dark Hedges - was made famous the world over when it starred, albeit briefly, in the internationally acclaimed television hit Game of Thrones.

However, given the the huge volume of traffic and the age of the trees there are major concerns the tourist magnet could be irrevocably destroyed.

In October as a response to the environmental concerns a ban was placed on all cars and vehicles using the road except for locals to access fields or for the emergency services.

But those campaigning for the preservation of the site feel the measures - in effect road signs - are not being enforced and drivers are routinely flouting the ban.

"Go up at any time and it will soon become busy," said Bob McCallion who is part of the Save the Dark Hedges group.

"We never wanted the road closed in the first place, had it have been managed properly, but now something needs to be done.

"The problem is people see the signs and think local access means they can go up the road. Others think the road has been pedestrianised so you have cars trying to do three-point turns around coaches while people are milling about in between - there is a real safety issue.

"At other times people don't realise the road is closed and try to reverse back onto the main road, only for someone to come up on them and then they've no where to go."

Bob says the authorities need to act and even suggests an organisation like the National Trust take ownership in order to preserve the site for years to come. He said there needed to be signs warning of the closure before the site and directing people toward car parking facilities.

"Otherwise there will be no Dark Hedges and no tourists visiting them," he added.

"There needs to be an effective solution. What would be ideal would be one statutory body with the money to look after it and stop the cars. There are times it is bedlam and it is every time right up to darkness.

"But we just feel no one is listening."

He added: "It is a truly beautiful spot. Take yesterday, it was lovely winter's day and there was a great atmosphere of people milling about. And then you get some car coming down blaring its horn trying to get people out of the way. There is lots of potential in the area and we need to tap into that."

The Department for Infrastructure (DfI) said the road signage and car ban was the first step in managing the tourist attraction and there were plans to develop facilities in the area by other agencies.

"These are needed before bollards or the like could be considered at the ends of the road," a spokesman said.

“While enforcement of the legislation is a matter for the PSNI, DfI would again ask local visitors and those from further afield to respect and adhere to the restrictions put in place to help protect the now iconic location.

“DfI will continue to work closely with Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council and Tourism NI to assist in their efforts to enhance the visitor experience at the Dark Hedges in a safe and sustainable manner.”

Superintendent Jeremy Lindsay said: "Police are aware of the traffic issues at the Dark Hedges and we monitor the area as part of our routine patrols. However, given the pressure on resources, it is neither justifiable nor sustainable for us to maintain a constant presence at the site.

"We have worked with the local council and the Department for Infrastructure which has put in vehicle restrictions that are appropriate but do not discriminate against local residents.

"Our advice is to motorists is to observe the traffic signs in the area which clearly show that no motor vehicles are allowed on the Bregagh Road where the Dark Hedges are located, apart from those requiring local access."

Superintendent Lindsay added: "We will continue our dialogue with other partners in the new year to work towards a permanent solution to the issue."

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