Belfast Telegraph

Traffic solution for Game of Thrones Dark Hedges 'as elusive as Northern Ireland talks deal'

 

By David Young

Finding an answer to car parking problems at the Dark Hedges is "more frustrating than trying get a deal at Stormont", a former DUP minister has said.

North Antrim MLA Mervyn Storey spoke as images emerged yesterday of traffic chaos at the tourist attraction.

The arcade of ancient beech trees achieved international fame though its brief appearance in TV fantasy drama Game Of Thrones.

But it has become a victim of its own success as thousands of visitors flock to the dramatic landmark outside Ballymoney in Co Antrim.

Yesterday, despite a police presence and signs warning motorists the road was closed to traffic, cars were still parking on the verges and performing U-turns as crowds descended on the beauty spot.

Mr Storey, who chairs the Dark Hedges Preservation Trust, said managing traffic and access was tough - and getting tougher.

The former Finance Minister said the PSNI had told him that officers would pay special attention to the Dark Hedges road over the Easter bank holiday weekend.

But he added: "It's disappointing that people haven't respected the fact that the law says you are not allowed to drive onto the Dark Hedges road.

"Roads Service did put up additional signs last week to remind people that the road is not a public access road."

The MLA said finding a solution to traffic problems at the Dark Hedges had become increasingly frustrating.

The enormous number of cars using the road has led to the deterioration of the verges, which has a long-term negative impact on the health of the trees.

"It is one of the most frustrating things - even more frustrating than trying to get a deal at Stormont - that we haven't been able to get a solution yet," the MLA added.

"I'm not giving up, there will be a solution found.

"I share the frustration of those people who take an interest in the area at not being able to get a long-term answer.

"But we are getting closer.

"We will continue to work along with the Dark Hedges estate, Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, the Dark Hedges Preservation Trust and others to get a car parking solution.

"The police are not there to book people for being on the road; they are there to advise people that it's not permitted to be on the Dark Hedges road.

"I think that is the right approach.

"At the end of the day we still do want people to come and visit what for me is the most iconic tree-lined avenue anywhere in Europe."

PSNI Inspector David Jennings said: "During this holiday period we would underline to motorists that they should 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.

"We are continuing our dialogue with other partners to work towards a permanent solution to the issue."

Meanwhile, traffic ground to a standstill around Portrush yesterday as thousands of holidaymakers and day-trippers headed for the north coast for Easter.

During hours of gridlock the PSNI issued 11 fixed penalty tickets for offences including no MoT certificates and vehicle defects.

Some 27 vehicles also had tints removed at the roadside, and motorists were given advice and warnings, according to the PSNI.

Belfast Telegraph

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