Sinn Féin’s Chris Hazzard MP has called on the public to attend an information session this Thursday in Newcastle regarding the proposed ‘Mournes Gateway’ project.
The South Down MP said:
“The ‘Mournes Gateway’ project is being sold as an exciting opportunity to deliver a world class visitor attraction that will become a catalyst for sustainable tourism growth in South Down, and also position Newcastle as one of Ireland’s premier visitor destinations.
“Undoubtedly then this is an exciting vision that merits serious consideration. However there is no escaping the reality that given the location of this project it also requires robust and rigorous appraisal of some fundamental environmental, ecological, and economic concerns.
“Clearly a project of this scale and ambition will have a considerable impact on the iconic Mournes landscape. But perhaps more importantly, it will also significantly increase the already heavy recreational pressure on the Mournes, especially in the Donard area.
“An unprecedented amount of research and information will be required to develop a visitor management plan that can assure the public that such an increase in visitor numbers does not undermine, and threaten the sustainability of sensitive ecosystems in the area.
“There are also a number of economic concerns that require urgent clarity, not least the expectation of local ratepayers to shoulder rising costs; the prioritisation of the project set against local schemes such as a long overdue new leisure centre in Newcastle and regeneration of the Newcastle Harbour area including the Rock Pool; and questions regarding the business operating model of the project, including the proposed ‘gondola’.
Chris Hazzard added:
“Sinn Féin are committed to giving this concept serious consideration; we will continue to engage with local residents, landowners and the wider community in order to determine what we believe is in the best longterm interests of the people, and the natural environment at our feet.
“I would also like to appeal to public authorities, and public representatives alike to engage with this process in an open, honest, and transparent manner; as custodians of this area we owe it to future generations to get this decision right.”