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Kilbroney Park plan ‘slippery slope to privatisation’

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Kilbroney Park plan ‘slippery slope to privatisation’ thumbnailKilbroney Park

A COUNCIL proposal to use external expertise to appoint the management for caravan and camping facilities in the district's forest parks has been described by a local councillor as "the slippery slope to privatisation".

The comment was made by Independent member, Jarlath Tinnelly at this month's Enterprise, Regeneration and Tourism committee meeting.

The proposal before members was to agree a joint process between Newry, Mourne and Down District Council and the Forest Service to appoint external expertise "to prepare the business rationale and specification to seek competent providers for the management of Tollymore, Castlewellan and Kilbroney Park caravan/camping provision with the option to consider some additional tourism recreational services which would enhance the tourism offering".

Councillor Tinnelly believed that Kilbroney should be removed from the list and he expressed his disappointment that it was still included despite raising objections 12 months ago.

“Kilbroney Park is one of the greatest success stories of this council and the legacy council," declared Mr Tinnelly.

He feared for "job losses, price rises and a lesser satisfactory visitor experience" while SDLP Councillor Declan McAteer thought it was "a complicated licence."

The council would be potentially handing over Kilbroney to an outside provider and that it was "all about profit."

Mr McAteer said Kilbroney Park was "helping to build our tourist economy" but he had "severe reservations" about the proposal and described the contents of the report as "very woolly".

ER&T director Marie Ward stressed that it was not all about privatisation. They were asking for Kilbroney Park to be included in the initial study and then for a decision to be made if members wished to have caravan parks operated privately.

Councillor Terry Hearty (Sinn Fein) said the matter had been "on the cards for a while" and although he understood the concerns, he felt that one park could not be managed differently from another.

Sinn Fein's Willie Clarke did not see it as a threat as the strategy for tourism was to upgrade the visitors' experience in the forest parks. An outside caterer had been appointed in Slieve Gullion Forest Park, he pointed out.

Following a vote, it was agree to proceed with the recommendation by eight votes to five.

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