Northern Ireland

Giant's Causeway resort row: Trust's fear for future over UK sites

Dame Helen Ghosh
Image caption Dame Helen Ghosh became the National Trust's director general last November

The head of the National Trust has said she fears the decision to allow a golf course to be built near the Giant's Causeway could have implications for other world heritage sites in the UK.

Last week, the trust lost its legal bid to block construction of a £100m golf resort in County Antrim.

Dame Helen Ghosh, who leads the UK-wide organisation, said the trust does not regret launching the legal challenge.

She declined to say if the charity intends to appeal the court's decision.

Options

The National Trust opposes the development, because of its proximity to the Unesco world heritage site.

However the legal challenge provoked controversy, with the MP for the area, Ian Paisley Jr, branding the trust's actions "a disgrace."

Dame Helen, a 57-year-old former civil servant took over as director general of the charity in November 2012.

She made her first visit to the Giant's Causeway on Tuesday and said the trust was considering its options after losing the judicial review.

She told the BBC she did not believe the failed legal challenge had damaged the reputation of the trust.

"Indeed, we believe that most of our members, who after all believe in what we believe in, would support our attempts to protect this very special place."

The resort, at Runkerry, will be located just over a mile away from the entrance to the Giant's Causeway and had been the subject of one of Northern Ireland's longest running planning disputes.

Under the plans, it is set to include an 18-hole golf course, a 120 bedroom hotel and 70 golf lodges.

Image caption The Giant's Causeway is Northern Ireland's best known tourist attraction

The 365-acre site, will be known as Bushmills Dunes Golf Resort and Spa.

Protection

Stormont's environment minister, Alex Attwood, granted permission for the scheme in February 2012, saying it would boost tourism and the local economy.

However, the National Trust argued that he should have consulted Unesco before making his decision and it launched judicial review proceedings at Belfast's High Court.

But during the court hearing, lawyers for the Runkerry project team claimed the charity's opposition was based on commercial interests.

The Giant's Causeway is Northern Ireland's best known tourist attraction.

The trust has been responsible for the management and protection of the site since 1961.

The Giant's Causeway was declared a Unesco world heritage site in 1986.

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