Exploring the Governance Challenges Associated with the Failed Attempt to Designate a National Park in Northern Ireland

Exploring the Governance Challenges Associated with the Failed Attempt to Designate a National Park in Northern Ireland


School of Planning Architecture and Civil Engineering, Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland

| |
| | Citation



National parks are primarily designated for conservation purposes, yet globally they have become major eco- nomic generators through countryside tourism. Protected areas across Northern Ireland currently suffer from a management deficit and as a result natural landscapes in Northern Ireland are said to be degrading rapidly. The tourism industry in Northern Ireland relies heavily on the marketable potential of its natural heritage. There- fore, a predicted rise in tourist arrivals could accelerate environmental degradation, potentially jeopardising the future marketable value of countryside tourism. National park designation represents one possible mechanism for managing this tourism resource paradox. However, a recent attempt to proceed towards national park desig- nation in Northern Ireland crystallises the complex governance challenges associated with designating national parks in multi-functional, privately owned and highly contested landscapes. The Mournes case study is drawn upon to highlight how local governance challenges represent a potential obstacle to securing widespread stake- holder support for the sustainability principles associated with contemporary national park models.


environmental governance, national park, resource paradox, sustainable development


[1] IUCN, Managing conflicts in protected areas, The World Conservation Union: Gland, Switzer- land and Cambridge, U.K., 1996.

[2] Child, B., Parks in transition: biodiversity, rural development and the bottom line, Earthscan/ James & James: London, p. 267, 2004.

[3] IUCN, Guidelines for Applying Protected Area Management Categories, IUCN Gland: Swit- zerland, 2008.

[4] Benediktsson, K. & Porvaroardottir, G., Frozen opportunities? Local communities and the establishment of Vatnajokull National Park, Iceland, Mountains of Northern Europe. ‘Conser- vation, Management, People and Nature, ed. D.B.A. Thompson, M.F. Price & C.A. Galbraith, Scottish Natural Heritage: Edinburgh, p. 335, 2005.

[5] Pimbert, M. & Pretty, J., Diversity and sustainability in community based conservation. Paper presented at the UNESCO-IIPA regional workshop on Community-based Conservation, Feb- ruary 9-12, 1997; Diversity and sustainability in community based conservation. Available at http://www.iied.org/pubs/pdfs/G01094.pdf: 1997.

[6] Hamin, E.M., The US national park service’s partnership parks: collaborative responses to middle landscapes. Land Use Policy, 18(2), pp. 123–135, 2001. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/ S0264-8377(01)00006-0

[7] Warren, C., Managing Scotland’s Environment, Edinburgh University Press: Edinburgh, 2009.

[8] Lister-Kaye, J., The enjoyment and understanding of nature and wildness, Enjoyment and understanding of the natural heritage, ed. M.B. Usher, The Stationary Office: Edinburgh,   pp. 3–10, 2001.

[9] Brown, K., Innovations for conservation and development. Geographical Journal, 168(1), pp. 6–17, 2002. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1475-4959.00034

[10] WCED, Our Common Future, Oxford University Press: Oxford, 1987.

[11] Barker, A. & Stockdale, A., Out of the Wilderness? achieving sustainable development within scottish national parks. Journal of Environmental Management, 88(1), pp. 181–193, 2008. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2007.04.007

[12] O’Riordan, T. & Voisey, H., The Politics of Agenda 21, The Transition to Sustainability: The Politics of Agenda 21, ed. T. O’Riordan, H. Voisey, Earthscan: London, 1998.

[13] Lafferty, W.M. & Eckerberg, K., The nature and purpose of ‘local agenda 21’. From the Earth Summit to Local Agenda 21: working towards sustainable development, eds. W.M. Lafferty, K. Eckerberg, Earthscan: London, p. 1, 1998.

[14] Ogden, P., Protected landscapes: their role in promoting the sustainable use of agricultural use of land. Parks, 13(2), p. 3, 2003.

[15] Hamin, E.M., Western european approaches to landscape protection: a review of the literature. Journal of Planning literature, 16(3), p. 339, 2002.

[16] Beresford, M. & Phillips, A., Protected landscapes: a conservation model for the 21st century. The George Wright Forum, 17(1), p. 15, 2000.

[17] Phillips, A., Landscape approaches to national parks and protected areas, National parks and protected areas: Keystones to conservation and sustainable development, eds. J.G. Nelson. & R. Serafin, Springer: Berlin, p. 31, 1997.

[18] Bishop, K., Green, M. & Phillips, M. Models of National Parks, Scottish Natural Heritage: Perth, 1998.

[19] The Scottish Parliament, National Parks (Scotland) Act. 2000.

[20] Butler, R.W. & Boyd, S.W. Tourism and National Parks: Issues and Implications. John Wiley: Chichester, 2000.

[21] Harroy, J.P., Tassi, F., Pratesi, F. & Humphries, C. National Park’s of the World. Orbis publish- ing: London, 1974.

[22] Spirn, A.W., Constructing nature: the legacy of frederick law Olmsted. Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature, ed. W. Cronon, W.W. Norton and Company: New York/ London, p. 91, 1996.

[23] Wall Reinius, S. & Fredman, P. Protected areas as attractions. Annals of Tourism Research, 34(4), pp. 839–854, 2007. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.annals.2007.03.011

[24] McCool, S., Does wilderness designation lead to increased recreational use?. Journal of For- estry, 83(1), pp. 39–41, 1985.

[25] Fredman, P.L., Hornsten, F. & Emmelin, L. Increased visitation from national park designa- tion. Current Issues in Tourism, 10(1), pp. 87–95, 2007. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.2167/cit293.0

[26] McIntyre, N., Jenkins, J. & Booth, K. Global influences on access: the changing face of access to public conservation lands in New Zealand. Journal of sustainable tourism, 9(5), p. 434, 2001. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09669580108667413

[27] Healy, N. & McDonagh, J. Commodification and conflict: what can the irish approach to pro- tected area management tell us?. Society and Natural Resources, 22(4), pp. 381–391, 2009. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08941920801978622

[28] Zimmerer, K.S. The reworking of conservation geographies: non equilibrium landscapes and nature-society hybrids. Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 90(2), pp. 356, 2000. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/0004-5608.00199

[29] Mbaiwa, J.E., The socio-economic and environmental impacts of tourism development on the Okavango Delta, north-western Botswana. Journal of Arid Environments, 54(2), pp. 447–467, 2003. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1006/jare.2002.1101

[30] Plog, S.C., Why destination areas rise and fall in popularity. Cornell Hotel and  Restau- rant Administration Quarterly, 14(4), pp. 55–58, 1974. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/ 001088047401400409

[31] Oliveira, J.A.P., Governmental responses to tourism development: three Brazilian case studies. Tourism Management, 24(1), pp. 97–110, 2003. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0261-5177(02) 00046-8

[32] Williams, P.W. & Ponsford, I.F., Confronting tourism’s environmental paradox: transitioning for sustainable tourism. Futures, 41(6), pp. 396–404, 2009. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/ j.futures.2008.11.019

[33] Redclift, M.R., Sustainable development (1987-2005): an oxymoron comes of age. Horizontes Antro- pológicos, 12(25), pp. 65–84, 2006. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0104-71832006000100004

[34] Weaver, D.B., Tourism and the elusive paradigm of sustainable development, A Companion  to Tourism, eds. A.A. Lew, C.M. Hall,  & A,M. Williams,  Blackwell  Publishing:  Oxford, pp. 510–524, 2004.

[35] Northern Ireland Planning Advisory Board, The Ulster countryside report, Northern Ireland Planning Advisory Board: Belfast, 1947.

[36] Buchanan, R.H., Landscape. the recreational use of the countryside, Northern Ireland. Envi- ronment and Natural Resources, eds. J.G. Cruickshank, & D.N. Wilcock, The Queen’s Univer- sity of Belfast: Belfast, p. 265, 1982.

[37] Bell, J. & Stockdale, A. Towards a multi-purpose model for the proposed Mourne national park. Irish Geography, 42(3), p. 293, 2009. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00750770903405439

[38] McAreavey, R., Towards a Mourne National Park? Emergent prospects and pitfalls from articulating needs in a local context. Institute of Spatial and Environmental Planning, Queen’s University Belfast: Belfast, 2010.

[39] Rowan, E., Merging Collaborative Planning and Environmental Valuation; eliciting prefer- ences for a national park designation in Northern Ireland. Queen’s University Belfast: Belfast, 2009.

[40] Deloitte., Research into the financial cost of the Northern Ireland divide. Deloitte: London, 2007.

[41] Northern Ireland Executive. Programme for Government 2008-2011. Northern Ireland Execu- tive: Economic and Policy Unit, 2008.

[42] Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment. A Draft Tourism Strategy for Northern Ire- land to 2020. DETI: Belfast, 2010.

[43] Northern Ireland Environmental Policy Group. National Parks and other Protected Landscape Areas: A discussion of options for establishing national parks and managing other outstanding landscapes in Northern Ireland. Department of the Environment: Belfast, 2004.

[44] Johnson, A., Northern Ireland’s national park back in the wilderness, The Independent Media: London, 2009.

[45] Warren, C., The ‘natural’: conservation management, Managing Scotland’s Environment, ed. C. Warren, Edinburgh University Press: Edinburgh, p. 214, 2009.

[46] Mourne Heritage Trust. An Introduction to the Mourne Biodiversity Action Plan - A reflection of Mourne’s Rich Natural Heritage. MHT: Newcastle (NI), 2007.

[47] Greer, J. & Murray, M., A Recreation Strategy for the Mourne Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Sports Council for Northern Ireland: Belfast, 1988.

[48] Mourne National Park Working Party Report to the Minister. Environment and Heritage Ser- vice: Belfast, 2007.

[49] Countryside Access & Activities Network Mourne Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Access Study. CAAN: Belfast, 2007.

[50] Buchanan, C. and Partners Ltd. Tourism in Mourne: Current and Potential Economic Impact. Author: Belfast, 2006.

[51] Mack, N., Loughry, Y. & McDonald, K. A Socio-economic Profile of the proposed Mournes National Park. Rural Development Council; Policy and Innovation Research Unit: Belfast, 2006.

[52] Bungay, et al., Special Places Need Special Care. Europarc: 2002.

[53] BBC, National park plan moves closer. 2002; 6th January, 2011Available at: http://news.bbc. co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/2282701.stm

[54] Dewar, D., Nesbitt prepares first national park. Planning (weekly journal of the Royal Town Planning Institute) 2002 (4th October, p3).

[55] Environment and Heritage Service, Shared Horizons: Statement of Policy on Protected Land- scapes in Northern Ireland. DoE: Belfast, 2003.

[56] Environment and Heritage Service, A Mourne National Park? Department of the Environment: Northern Ireland, 2004.

[57] Inform Communications Northern Ireland Ltd. Report to the Mourne National Park Working Party on the Outcome of their Public Consultation: ‘Your opportunity to have your say’. In- form Communications Ltd.: Belfast, 2007.

[58] Bowcott, O., Planning for the worst, Wednesday 4th October, Guardian Media Group: Lon- don, 2006.

[59] McKee, L., Green groups attack Foster over fears of new ‘bungalow blight’, Tuesday 12th February, Independent News and Media Group: Belfast, 2008.

[60] Bell, J.P.W., A national parkless Northern Ireland: the tourism resource paradox and the im- plications for sustainability. WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment, 12-14th July 2011; eds. C.A. Brebbia, E. Beriatos., WIT Press: Southampton, p. p491, 2011.

[61] Cassidy, M., Community split over national park. 2007; March, 30th, 2010 Available at: http:// news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/6388157.stm.

[62] Govan, H., Inglis, A., Pretty, J., Harrison, M. & Wightman, A., Best Practice in community participation for National Parks. Scottish Natural Heritage: Edinburgh, 1998.

[63] First Trust Bank, Economic Outlook and Business Review. First Trust Bank: Belfast, March 2010.

[64] Northern Ireland Executive, Northern Ireland Executive Economic Strategy: Consultation on priorities for sustainable growth and prosperity. Northern Ireland Executive: Belfast, 2011.

[65] Glasson, J., Godfrey, K. & Goodey, B. Towards visitor impact management: Visitor impacts, carrying capacity and management responses in Europe’s historic towns and cities. Avebury: England, 1995.

[66] Cornwall, A., Making spaces, changing places: situating participation in development. Insti- tute of Development Studies (IDS): Brighton, 2002.

[67] Murray, M., Participatory Rural Planning: Exploring Evidence from Ireland. Ashgate: Surrey, 2010.

[68] Edwards, B., Goodwin, M., Pemberton, S. & Woods, M., Partnerships, power and scale in rural governance. Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, 19(2) pp. 289–310, 2001. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1068/c12m

[69] Derkzen, P., Franklin, A. & Bock, B., Examining power struggles as a signifier of success- ful partnership working: a case study of partnership dynamics. Journal of Rural Studies, 24 pp. 458–466, 2008. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jrurstud.2008.03.010

[70] Cornwall, A., Introduction: new democratic spaces? the politics and dynamics of institution- alised participation. Institute of Development Studies Bulletin, 2004.

[71] Mourne Trustees, Report on the outcome of the Mourne national park consultation exercise by nominees of the Mourne Trustees. 2010.

[72] Department of the Environment (NI) White Paper on Proposed Enabling Legislation for National Parks. DoE: Belfast, 2011.

[73] Department of the Environment (NI) Consultation document on enabling legislation for national parks. DoE: Belfast, 2011.

[74] County Down Outlook, Park backing, 1st June, Alpha Newspaper Group: Dungannon, 2011.