Public Petition: Ballycastle to Ballymoney Greenway

Assembly Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 11:00 am on 2nd February 2021.

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Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin 11:00 am, 2nd February 2021

Mr Philip McGuigan has sought leave to present a public petition in accordance with Standing Order 22. The Member will have up to three minutes in which to speak. For the avoidance of doubt, that means up to three minutes.

Photo of Philip McGuigan Philip McGuigan Sinn Féin

I am presenting this online petition, which was created by a group of concerned citizens who title themselves the Ballycastle to Ballymoney Greenway Supporters' Club.

As I said, the petition is online and contains 1,123 signatures. I am submitting it today for the attention of the Infrastructure Minister, but it will also go to Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, as both have a part to play in shaping funding and realising the project.

The petition states:

"We are signing this petition as a demonstration of our full support for the development of a Greenway linking Ballycastle and Ballymoney. We believe that development of a Greenway ... will result in a range of economic, social and environmental benefits. A Greenway ... will produce economic benefits for both, resulting from the increased footfall the Greenway will stimulate from local residents, domestic visitors and international tourists. Furthermore, with a creative design, the Greenway could include a variety of entry and exit points to include the tourist popular Dark Hedges and linkages to rural villages including"

Dervock as well as:

"Armoy and Stranocum. This would catalyse additional economic opportunities. Benefits will include new employment opportunities such as cafés and refreshment breaks at entry and exit points, walking and cycling tour guides and the maintenance of the Greenway."

A further benefit would be bicycle hire shops.

The people who are responsible for organising the petition understand that the greenway project is about much more than creating a 30-kilometre route along the old Moyle railway line. The 1,123 people who signed the petition know the potential value of the greenway to them, the community in North Antrim and the current and future businesses in the towns and villages on its route. They know the potential for children and families, who will have a safe, clean and green place to exercise their physical and mental health. It is because they know all that that they want to translate that potential into action. They want the Department for Infrastructure to work closely with the council in order to make the greenway a reality and to do so without delay.

We in the Chamber often talk about active travel and our commitments to it but, in reality, not enough happens beyond that. When we see the other side of the COVID pandemic, we will still need to do more to tackle our health and to implement the practices that we talk about in the Chamber in order to create a healthier population and relieve pressure from our hospitals and NHS staff.

We also agreed in the Chamber that we are in a climate crisis, but we still prioritise infrastructure for cars over walking and cycling. If we are to match our ambitions, we need action, serious intervention and serious funding to do so. In the South, greenway projects received over €100 million in 2018, and, a week ago, the Government announced funding for 248 new jobs to create walking and cycling facilities.

Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin

Will the Member bring his remarks to a close, please?

Photo of Philip McGuigan Philip McGuigan Sinn Féin

How about we match that ambition and funding?

Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin

The Member's time is up.

Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin

As the Member knows, I would normally invite him to bring his petition to the Table and present it. However, in light of social distancing, I ask the Member to remain in his place, and I will make arrangements for him to submit the petition to my office. I thank the Member for bringing the petition to the attention of the Assembly. Once the petition is received, I will forward it to the Minister for Infrastructure and send a copy to the Committee.

I ask Members to take their ease for a moment or two before we move on to the next item of business.

(Mr Deputy Speaker [Mr McGlone] in the Chair)