Dark Hedges could see traffic ban introduced

A coach and vehicle parked up on the side of the road, causing congestion for oncoming vehicles. Note the burnt residues from the white line mistake. Picture by Bob McCallion.
A coach and vehicle parked up on the side of the road, causing congestion for oncoming vehicles. Note the burnt residues from the white line mistake. Picture by Bob McCallion.

There has been a mixed response to the recent news that traffic could be banned through the Dark Hedges trees near Stranocum.

One of the most ardent supporters of the international tourist attraction, local photographer Bob McCallion – whose pictures of the Hedges have earned him many awards – has hit out that while the recent announcement is welcome it is too little, too late.

Writing on Facebook, Mr McCallion said: “According to Mervyn Storey, chairman of the Dark Hedges Preservation Trust (DHPT), ‘up to 100 people visited the attraction every day’. I have counted many more than that in one hour, and that excludes coaches! I wish these ‘trusts’ and the other organisations who are still “in the early stages of consultation” over the closure of Bregagh Road would visit the area and see the problems for themselves.

“They seem to be in denial, or do not want to know the terrible destruction and extreme danger that exists at the site. This has been happening for at least five years!

“I have been told that the formal paperwork for the long term closure of Bregagh Road (2017 or beyond?) is imminent. However, the actual decision refers to the issue only of a notice of intention in the autumn and NOT a decision to close one of the most dangerous roads in the country now.

“Some words of wisdom by Councillor Darryl Wilson - ‘lack of action has unfortunately caused irreparable damage’. I hope Councillor Wilson won’t mind if I expand on this - ‘lack of action has unfortunately caused irreparable damage which could result in serious injury/fatalities (eg weakened trees falling on vehicles) if Bregagh Road is not closed to traffic, NOW!!’”

Agreeing with Mr McCallion’s concerns, UUP MLA Robin Swann stated that “a delicate balancing act is the sensible approach which must be taken to the increasing traffic scenario”.

Mr Swann issued his appeal after receiving written confirmation of traffic measures from TransportNI’s Northern Division.

He added: “While it is important that measures are put in place to protect the trees from the pressures of the increased additional traffic, it is also vitally important that the site is managed to accommodate both the needs and interest of tourists and local users”

The Northern Division told Mr Swann: “Following discussions with Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Causeway Coast and Glens Heritage Trust, Dark Hedges Preservation Trust and other interested parties, TransportNI has agreed to facilitate implementation of a Traffic Order prohibiting vehicles from using the Bregagh Road between Ballinlea Road and Ballykenver Road.

“There will, of course, be the usual exceptions for statutory authorities, landowners etc. It is also proposed to prohibit buses from using the Chatham Road and Doughery Brae nearby. Initial formal consultation with the council and PSNI is now under way.”