Northern Ireland news

Calls for Stormont strategy to tackle traffic in rural areas popular with tourists

The Dark Hedges near Stranocum, Co Antrim

A SINN Féin assembly member has called for the creation of a Stormont strategy to tackle the problems of increased traffic in rural areas which have become popular tourist attractions.

Emma Rogan has highlighted concerns in her constituency of south Down, where the popular HBO show Game of Thrones is filmed, which has seen an increase in congestion, including large coaches, visiting the area.

She said more was needed to be done to "relieve the ongoing situation developing near popular tourists locations" and has called on the Department of Infrastructure (Dfi) to resolve the situation.

"I have been contacted by many concerned residents in my own constituency over recent weeks who are expressing their concern over the road safety implications that comes with the increased number of tourists and tour buses to their areas," she said.

"This increase in tourist numbers to Ireland in recent years has coincided with the filming of the popular HBO show Game of Thrones, which has been filmed in my own constituency of south Down on many occasions.

"Although I feel very grateful for this opportunity to our local tourist economy, I have to also consider the massive impact that this large influx of tourists is having on local people and businesses."

Ms Rogan said she had met residents living on Audleystown Road, Strangford, who said they "felt under siege and unable to leave their home" due to increased traffic by tourists visiting the area.

"I feel that this is completely unacceptable and a solution has to be made to relief this ongoing issue," she said.

Another area affected by the increase in interest from film fans is the Dark Hedges, also made famous by Game of Thrones. Traffic was banned from the Bregagh Road near Armoy in Co Antrim last year, but vehicles still use the road every day.

Ms Rogan said she believes that "Dfi must consider putting in place a strategy for the whole of the north to make sure no area has to deal with having to choose between economic growth or sustainable traffic solution".

A spokeswoman for Dfi said: "The department is aware that increasing tourist traffic is leading to problems in some areas.

"This can particularly be the case when large tourist coaches use minor roads that are not suitable for such heavy traffic.

"Traffic Engineers in our four divisional offices consider each area on its merits.

"They will be happy to work with elected representatives and other local stakeholders to make improvements, where this is possible and affordable within current funding levels."

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