On Tuesday 9th February CCGHT hosted the Combined Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Management Forum meeting, bringing together the three AONBs forums which CCGHT co-ordinates and supports; Antrim Coast and Glens, Causeway Coast and Binevenagh. This second meeting built on the foundations of last years meeting and focused on the topic of access.

Forum members and CCGHT staff were welcomed by Chairman Graham Seymour who commented on how much this last year has reinforced the importance of quality outdoor access and raised the public’s consciousness about access provisions in their local area.

Nikki, Causeway Coast Project Manager, spoke on behalf of the CCGHT Team about the creation of AONBs in the 1980’s and that providing and maintaining public access to and within AONBs is required by the Order that designates them, NCALO 1985. CCGHT and the Management Forums have delievred new, improved and quality access across the AONBs over the past decade including working with private landowners. A spotlight was given to access provisions beyond trails and paths; the efforts past and present to connect with a wide audience and provide access to AONBs through literature, training and events.

The group welcomed Caro-Lynne Ferris of Outdoor Recreation NI to provide a summary on the legal basis for access to the countryside in Northern Ireland and share information on current efforts to create an Outdoor Recreation Bill for Northern Ireland: http://www.outdoorrecreationni.com/blog/provision-of-access-northern-ireland/

Caro-Lynne presented data which demonstrated a 35% increase in outdoor activity during the COVID pandemic, bringing with it a need to ensure maintenance and access provisions are kept to a high standard. http://www.outdoorrecreationni.com/news/new-survey-highlights-importance-of-accessing-outdoors-safely-during-covid-19/

Next Mel Mc Quitty, Outdoor Recreation Officer for the Binevenagh and Coastal Lowland Partnership Scheme talked the meeting through how using a Spatial Master Planning approach in the Binevenagh area is already proving beneficial. This approach looks at the area, what it is used for and by who, while planning takes account of the impacts development in one site can have on another.

Steve Dering from Direct Access was next to speak and issued a call to action for members to engage on the current CCGHT Accessibility Audit. This year CCGHT are addressing the needs of disabled people who want to access the AONB area via a consultation to identify locations followed by site survey. At least one location will be upgraded to improve access by 2024. CCGHTs literature and corperate outputs are also under review and it is expected the organisation will take action to improve accessibility of outputs from March 2021 onwards. Click here to see and hear our video inviting you to get involved with our Disabled Access project.

The meeting moved towards questions with Gary Burrows from Marine and Fisheries Division (DAERA) flagging up the current consultation on the special marine environments in the area. Public Consultation by DAERA Marine & Fisheries on ‘The development of fisheries management measures for Marine Protected Areas’ https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/sites/default/files/consultations/daera/Consultation%20document_0.PDF

Following a lively question session the meeting was wrapped up.
The CCGHT Team are looking forward to welcoming Forum Members to the third combined meeting in February 2022, when we hope to get on site in an AONB.

Combined AONB Feb 2021 – Power Point from the meeting.

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