Proposals for regenerating the disused Thomas Quarry in the Mournes into a world class visitor experience are on view today as part of a public information event in Newcastle.
The Mourne Mountains Gateway Project aims to redefine the visitor experience of the Mourne Mountains whilst supporting the sustainable growth of tourism and protecting and enhancing the natural heritage and habitat of the region.
An iconic visitor centre with international appeal will allow visitors of all ages and abilities travelling by gondola lift to access breathtaking views in the heart of the Mourne Mountains. Environmental considerations are key to all aspects of the Belfast Region City Deal supported project, with the visitor centre itself designed to be reversible and large areas of the building prefabricated.
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council’s information day at O’Hare’s, Central Promenade, Newcastle, opened this morning at 10am and will now run until 5pm. Due to weather warnings, the evening session is unable to proceed as planned but opportunities for engagement will continue.
With an Outline Business Case approved by Council and partners, concept designs have now been produced to take the project to the next stage, and the Council wants to hear from residents and stakeholders on how the project should develop ahead of the appointment of a Design Team in Autumn 2023 and subsequent surveys and investigations.
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson, Cllr Michael Savage said, “We are excited to share details of the latest stage of the Mourne Mountains Gateway Project and the many benefits this will bring to our district. This is a project which aims to deliver a visitor attraction of international interest and create improved and more sustainable access to the Mournes. Importantly, we will be supporting our Newry, Mourne and Down hospitality sector and creating jobs.
“We’re acutely aware of our environmental responsibilities and input from our residents, partners, and all those invested in tourism in the region is key. This project remains in development and the conversation continues.”
Cllr Savage continued, “There are also wider considerations. The Mourne Mountains Gateway Project will, for example, provide the first opportunity to introduce a visitor management plan for the site that will align with wider visitor management across the Mournes. The aim is also to provide managed access onwards in to the Mournes from the visitor centre itself. Surplus revenue from the project will additionally be reinvested into trail development and repairs on the mountains.”
“There is also the opportunity to put in Green Infrastructure to support the project, with transport solutions including a Park and Ride in Newcastle.
Cllr Savage added, “An overall £200 million package of investment is coming to our district through Belfast Region City Deal funding for projects based on tourism, regeneration, and innovation. For the Mourne Mountains Gateway Project, £30 million of the total estimated project cost of £44 million is earmarked for Belfast Region City Deal funding. This is an unmissable opportunity for us in Newry, Mourne and Down to offer a tourist attraction of international interest that will support the sustainable growth of tourism and hospitality.”
“Today has been a great opportunity to discuss the project with residents. We have been able to answer many questions and following today’s event we will also publish answers to a range of frequently asked questions. Further updates will be provided on our website (newrymournedown.org/mournes-gateway) and social media channels.”
John McGrillen, Chief Executive of Tourism NI, said, “Tourism NI is excited to see the Mourne Mountains Gateway Project reach this stage and looks forward to seeing it further develop. We believe the Mournes Gateway will provide another “must see” offering for Northern Ireland, providing a reason to visit, particularly for the Republic of Ireland and GB markets.
“Our research has indicated that for the European and US markets, the Mournes Gateway will act as an anchor attraction, and go on to facilitate exploration of the wider area.”