UNESCO pitches golf ball into Runkerry bunker

It took a long time to work through the planning process, but in February 2012 the Bushmills Dunes Golf Resort and Spa finally received planning permission. A year later in February 2013, the National Trust lost its judicial review of the decision and have not appealed.

Minister of the Environment Alex Attwood invited Unesco to visit the Giant’s Causeway and the Causeway Coast. Quotes from their inspection report have been released and will be considered by Unesco’s World Heritage Committee which meets next month in Cambodia.

[BBC] The report, carried out for Unesco by one of its advisory bodies, states that the planned resort – 550 metres outside the boundary of the Causeway site in north Antrim – would “create an irreversible change of landscape character” in a protected area of outstanding natural beauty.

It also criticises the fact that it was not kept fully informed about the development before decisions were taken by Environment Minister Alex Attwood …

But Unesco believes it does not comply with “heritage-led development given its scale and location and would impact on important views in the landscape setting”. It adds the resort “should not be permitted in its proposed scale and location.”

The report also calls on the government to consider strengthening the law to ensure the impact of any proposed development near world heritage sites are “adequately assessed.”

Prime Minister David Cameron on Giants CausewayThe National Trust have responded to the Unesco report by confirming that they “will not be appealing the Court’s decision”.

Instead it will be actively seeking ways to influence changes to the Planning Bill currently going through the Northern Ireland Assembly which it believes should give full protection to World Heritage Sites.

Shutting the door before the next horse bolts – since we only have one World Heritage Site in Northern Ireland. (Marble Arch Caves counts as a Unesco-recognised Geopark.)

The Unesco report states:

Given the scale and location of the proposed golf resort development project, it is recommended that it should not be permitted at its proposed scale and location in order to avoid adverse impact on the landscape setting and important views of the property, which are part of the property’s Outstanding Universal Value.

Unesco calls for consultation on “modifications and alternatives” to the existing golf resort plans, and has requested that the state reply to them by next February. The developer plans to start work later this year.

Interviewed today on Radio Ulster’s Good Morning Ulster, Alex Attwood was confident that due process had been followed, and pointed to inaccuracies in Unesco’s report.

It’ll take a giant to overturn the decision unless Unesco’s Cambodia meeting can convincingly threaten to remove the Causeway’s World Heritage status, or the developer voluntarily offers to make modifications to better buffer the golf resort from the surrounding landscape.

Update – a few tweets from the News Letter’s Mark Rainey who’s been looking into the story.

 

As someone commented on Facebook:

they paved Par-adise and Putt up a parking lot

Alan Meban. Normally to be found blogging over at Alan in Belfast where you’ll find an irregular set of postings, weaving an intricate pattern around a diverse set of subjects. Comment on cinema, books, technology and the occasional rant about life. On Slugger, the posts will mainly be about political events and processes. Tweets as @alaninbelfast.