To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on conservation and utility management plans for (a) Strangford lough area in south Down and (b) Mournes area.
It is intended to declare the whole of the shores and parts of the islands in Strangford lough as areas of special scientific interest (ASSIs). The first ASSI has just been declared and declaration of the remainder will follow. The Department is in discussion with the Department of Agriculture with a view to bringing forward a proposal to designate a marine nature reserve in Strangford lough. The production of a comprehensive plan is seen as an integral part of the process of designation and subsequent management. The preparation of such a plan requires a research programme extending over at least a year to gather essential basic information.The Department is currently engaged in consultations with all other Government Departments whose functions may affect the landscape and wildlife of the Mournes. This process will produce proposals which will be discussed with district councils and will lead to a co-ordinated statement of policies for the Mournes area of outstanding natural beauty. The overall objectives will be to conserve the natural beauty of the area, to promote its enjoyment by the public and to safeguard the interests of its residents.