Causeway Coast and Glens Council is to act to ensure the public is fully aware of rights of way, particularly at the Giant’s Causeway.
Independent councillor Padraig McShane brought a motion before the council ’s leisure and development committee this week to ‘protect all public rights of way in the borough’.
He says the motion was brought forward and designed to combat the idea that the Causeway site was owned by the National Trust which was exacerbated by signs the Trust had erected.
“Access to the Giants Causeway and the many different iconic parts of the site are free for the public to enjoy,” he said.
“This motion is designed to strengthen that position and the knowledge about the same.
“Council acted immediately following the erecting of misleading signs at the site by writing to the National Trust in January 2017 to request an explanation.
“The Trust chose to ignore the Council for a number of months.
“Since I submitted the motion the National Trust have rowed back from their previous position and have removed a number of signs. But Council will now press ahead and assert the Public Rights of Way - with or without the agreement of the National Trust.
“The Trust is not entitled to tell people where they can or cannot go.
“I would commend all the members present who unanimously backed the motion. In doing so they have given our countryside officers the strength to assert the Public Rights of Way at the World Heritage Site for the enjoyment of the General Public.”
The motion passed unanimously by the committee said: “That this council under the access order have a duty to assert and protect all Public Rights of Way (PROW) within the Borough.
“It is our belief that the National Trust has erected signs at parts of the World Heritage Site that could mislead the public into believing they (the public) do not have a right of way to walk some of the most iconic parts of the site.
“We request this council under the access order fulfil their statutory duty, investigate and assert the PROW throughout the World Heritage Site.”
The Giant’s Causeway is the most popular visitor attraction in Northern Ireland, receiving more than 1m visitors last year.
The National Trust runs a very successful visitors’ centre at the site, which opened in 2012 at a cost of £18.5m.
The experience can cost up to £11.50 per adult or £28.75 for a family of five, but access to the Causeway itself is free.
Mr McShane said access to the site and parking at the Causeway, the Bushmills Distillery and Dunluce Castle all had to be looked at as a matter of urgency.
“One of the options might be a hub in Bushmills village,” he said. “If we want to promote ourselves as a tourist area, there are issues we have to consider seriously.”