A RESIDENTS’ group is objecting to plans to build a ferry link between south Down and Co Louth across Carlingford Lough.
Greencastle Area Residents’ Group, which says it represents some 60 families in south Down, says the roads network could not sustain the ferry and it would undermine local sites of historic interest.
Chairman Diarmuid Cahill said the group was first told of the plans in September 2011 at a public meeting, but little information was given.
“The infrastructure for such a development does not exist within the Greencastle area,” he said.
“The roads infrastructure is unable to sustain any increase in traffic. The proposed development could see a potential 950 to 1,400 cars per day during peak summer periods. That is a potential 40,000 vehicles in one month.
“There is also the possibility that commercial vehicles and lorries make use of the ferry, adding more pressure to the road network.”
The proposed landing site for the development on the Greencastle side is in front of a medieval church and a 1230s Anglo-Norman castle that was built by Hugh de Lacy, said Mr Cahill.
“This development has the potential to ruin the rich and unique natural heritage that exists in the Greencastle area.
“Because of the location of the proposed site the pier has to be approximately 154 metres in length, which is twice the length of the existing old wooden pier which was built in 1880.”
He believes the sustainability of the project is also “questionable” saying Lough Foyle Ferry was carrying on average 250,000 passengers per year “and could not make a profit” and that the Strangford and Portaferry service which has a population living on both sides of the lough which use the service daily “has lost over £4 million over three years”.
Mr Cahill said: “Greencastle nestles at the foot of the Mourne Mountains in a corner of Co Down.
“It is a place of rare beauty and charm, it lays claim to a rich and unique natural heritage as well as a vibrant history whose legacy can be witnessed in the ruins of its medieval fortifications, listed buildings and historical structures. These are the resources which need to be developed.
“Sustainable tourism is required for the area. Scenery, peace, tranquillity, clean air, safe beaches, places to rest, picnic areas, walking, bird watching, wildlife, built heritage, sailing, culture – Greencastle has it all. A ferry could threaten all that Greencastle has to offer.”
But Paul O’Sullivan of the proposed developer Carlingford Ferries told the BBC that the project could greatly improve the tourism interest in the area.
“This project would have a major impact on the cross-border tourism potential of the iconic and outstandingly beautiful Mournes-Cooley region,” he said.
Planning permission has been granted by authorities on both sides of the border for the long-debated Narrow Water Bridge spanning Carlingford Lough.
Mr O’Sullivan said the two projects could complement each other.
“Tourists in particular would have the option to complete a circular 35-mile round trip of the area and local people for the first time could enjoy the novelty of crossing the border at two different points on the water by car,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Environment said last night that no planning application for the proposed ferry has yet been received.
“If and when an application is received by the department, the application will be advertised in the local press and representations invited from interested parties including the local residents,” she said.
“In addition a number of statutory bodies would be consulted in relation to the potential impacts of the proposal, these consultations would include DRD Roads Service, and Northern Ireland Environment Agency and their responses along with any representations received would be fully considered prior to any recommendation being made.”