Northern Ireland

Unesco committee wants Runkerry development halted

An impression of what the new hotel will look like at Runkerry
Image caption An impression of what the proposed new hotel at Runkerry would look like

The World Heritage Committee of Unesco has agreed to ask the UK government to halt the development of a golf course at Runkerry near the Giant's Causeway.

The UN body wants the project stopped until its potential impact on the Causeway area is assessed.

The Giant's Causeway is the only world heritage site in Northern Ireland.

In February, NI's Department of Environment approved a planning application for an 18 hole golf course at Runkerry, close to the Causeway.

The WHC said it "requests the state party of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to halt the proposed development of a golf resort at the World Heritage property 'Giant's Causeway and Causeway Coast' until its potential impact on the outstanding universal value of the World Heritage property has been assessed".

Representatives from the government's Department of Media, Culture and Sport attended the meeting as observers only as the UK is not a member of the committee.

NI Environment Minister Alex Attwood said he had sent a letter to Unesco last week through the government.

"It stated that if Unesco wished to come to assess the World Heritage site, I would welcome them, meet them, and visit the site with them," Mr Attwood said.

"I welcome the opportunity to show Unesco what I am doing to safeguard the site, and hope that the visit will happen soon.

"I will also take the opportunity to outline to UNESCO the decision I have taken in respect of the Runkerry development and to detail the environmental impact, economic benefit and planning reasons that have informed my decision.

"I believe that the WHC of Unesco will very much appreciate how my decision was reached, how I took into full account environmental and heritage issues in addition to planning and economic ones."

The planned course would include a 120-bedroom hotel at Runkerry on the north coast near the Causeway.

The plan promises a multi-million pound investment with a pledge of hundreds of jobs.

Earlier this month, the National Trust faced criticism when it emerged it is trying to have the planning decision judicially reviewed by the courts.

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