Stop Playing Politics With Castlewellan Forest Park Says UKIP
Mr UK Independence Party (UKIP) representative Alan Lewis has called on the SDLP and Sinn Fein to “stop playing politics” with the future of Castlewellan Forest Park.
Alan said “Recently we’ve heard SDLP representatives questioning Forest Service commitment to Castlewellan Forest Park. In particular, they appear concerned that whilst Forest Service are funding new capital outlay for tourist and recreation initiatives, they will not fund their operation.
“Likewise, Sinn Fein representatives are also trying to appear as ‘the party’ that will champion the forest recreation cause, and force Forest Service into improvements in their delivery of forest recreation. Their stance on this issue belies the fact that Forest Service is required to follow the policy of one of their Ministers.
“Does this mean that these political parties have failed to understand the Council’s Memorandum of Understanding with the Forest Service? Under the terms of this MOU, it is the Council that agrees to take responsibility for, and pay for, the delivery of recreation services within DARD forests and not Forest Service. This is DARD policy and therefore the policy of Sinn Fein.
Mr Lewis added: “As a minimum, we need to ascertain the projected Council funding requirements for tourism and recreation in Down area, in Down forests and at Castlewellan Forest Park in particular. If, as is now being suggested, the Council have got this wrong there will be significant implications for ratepayers across the district.”
Stating the need for transparency, Alan called for an unambiguous statement from the Sinn Fein Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development that clarifies future funding for forest recreation. “Will current funding requirements be underwritten by her Department or by local rate payers.
“Rate payers within Down also require clarity from Sinn Fein councillors regarding which agenda they support. Is it the policy of their Minister in DARD? If this is not what they are telling us locally, then they must bring pressure to bear on their Minister to secure the future funding commitment of her Department.”
“Ttourism and recreation is too important an issue within Down District to be determined, in a game of one-upmanship, by the SDLP and Sinn Fein without even examining the facts.”