NEWRY, Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson, Councillor Laura Devlin has called for urgent action to protect our tourism assets.
“The COVID pandemic has created huge upheaval and challenges for society and has resulted in personal sacrifice for every individual in terms of the freedom and choice that we would normally enjoy in everyday life. Whilst the Council welcomes the gradual easing of restrictions, led by the Northern Ireland Executive’s phased recovery plan, the scenes of overcrowding at our beaches, towns and beauty spots in recent days has been shocking and very concerning to our residents, tourism businesses and our Council members.
“The exceptional good weather over the past two weeks, combined with the first stage of easing restrictions, has resulted in people coming back out to enjoy the outdoor environment, and in a huge influx of visitors coming into our district, some for the first time. Many of these visitors have been responsible and considerate in their actions. However, unfortunately there have been many incidents and reports of cars parked illegally at our beauty spots, rural roads being impassable with traffic jams, hordes of people gathering in our coastal towns and villages, and shocking levels of litter left scattered across some of our most scenic and protected environments. These scenes have been very concerning and if left unchecked, we could be facing a situation that results in devasting and irreversible damage to our environment, our communities, and our reputation has a tourism destination.
“The Council welcomes the support that residents, land-owners and businesses have shown in trying to deal with some of these challenges on the ground. It is acknowledged that there must be a planned approach put in place now to safeguard our most important tourism assets, and to ensure our district is protected and preserved for the benefit of all when we remerge from the COVID pandemic.
“The problems we are facing require a combined and sustained response from the Council, statutory agencies, transport-bodies, the PSNI, environmental and heritage groups, tourism businesses, landowners and from civic society. Each and every person that spends time at our beauty spots, or in our protected environments, also has an important role in acting responsibly and being considerate to other visitors and local residents.
“The Council will continue to engage closely with our partners from across these sectors in the coming days and weeks to establish sustainable solutions to addressing these challenges. We will intensify the messages going out to our visitors to act responsibly, and we will continue to direct resources towards protecting our environment, our communities, and our reputation as a tourism destination for the benefit of all.”