Game of Thrones Dark Hedges: Department of Infrastructure has power to overrule Causeway Coast and Borough Council on the future of 11 trees
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The iconic avenue of beech trees between Armoy and Stranocum have become a global tourist attraction since featuring as a recurring scene in HBO's popular television series Game of Thrones.
However, the Department for Infrastructure (DFI) says that an independent arboriculturist recommended felling 11 out of a total of 86 trees for public safety reasons.
However, a council spokesman told the News Letter on Thursday that DFI has the authority to go ahead and fell any or all of the trees without the consent of local councillors.
He said that The Planning (Trees) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2015 empowers Government Departments to "cut down, uproot, top or lop trees without council consent" where the work is necessary in the interests of public safety.
The DFI, in turn, said no decision had yet been taken on how many of the trees would be felled.
A spokesperson said: “The Department will continue to engage in the coming days with the Council, landowners, and local stakeholders. A decision will be made very soon on the number of trees to be removed at this time and the Department will arrange a contractor to carry out the work.
"The Department has a legal and moral obligation to act when public safety is at risk and takes this duty very seriously. The final decision will be taken by the Department and the public will be informed in advance.”
Dark Hedges campaigner Bob McCallion believes that a decision will be made to try and maintain the remaining five trees under TPOs.
But he believes that the authorities will probably take the other six down.
"But these things seem to drag on so I don't think it will happen soon," he added.
He is concerned that the value of the site as a tourist attraction means that cutting down unsafe trees is not progressed speedily.