Fans of the annual world famous motorcycle race, the Ulster Grand Prix, have spelt out their opposition to plans for a 96-acre cemetery on the Dundrod circuit.
Promoters of event, the Dundrod and District Motorcycle Club (DDMC), and the Ulster Grand Prix Supporters Club (UGPSC), are urging race fans and local residents to oppose the planning application - which has so far prompted over 350 letters of opposition to be sent to planners.
The race promoters argue that a cemetery would interfere with the annual road racing event, which can last three to five days each August depending on weather. However, the company behind the proposal says any planning approval would stipulate the cemetery would not operate on race or practise days.
The only access would be via Quarterland Road on the Ulster Grand Prix (UGP) circuit. The race takes place on the 10th, 11th and 13th of August this year, although lawful road closures may also take place on 12th and 14th if weather conditions dictate.
Robert Graham, Chairman of the Dundrod and District Motorcycle Club, said: “This proposal is fundamentally incompatible with the long established Ulster Grand Prix circuit.
“This event is one of the biggest annual events in the road racing calendar, attracting tens of thousands of visitors from across the world. The economic impact is significant; spectator spend alone generates an estimated £2.5m every year, and there are more than 10,000 commercial bed nights.”
He does not believe it would be practical for a 96-acre cemetery serving Belfast and Lisburn to close for up to five consecutive days annually. Opponents also argue that it is a mountainous area which is regularly closed by snow, and that local farmers do not want restrictions placed on when they can spread slurry.
But planning consultancy Strategic Planning said that the proposed Loughview Park Cemetery - a private facility - would bring £35m investment and sustain up to 345 construction jobs during development, as well as six permanent jobs.
It also said that pre-application community consultation has been carried out with all stakeholders.
Strategic Planning spokesman Richard Bowman said the “picturesque site” would provide a “beautifully designed cemetery” which would meet cemetery space shortages in Lisburn, Belfast and Newtownabbey.
Lisburn council estimate the cost of developing their own facility would be £15m, so this private facility would also offer major savings for ratepayers, he said.
He added that “as a private development, [it] will not operate on any race or practice days of the Ulster Grand Prix”.