Thursday, May 30, 2024


LOCAL people have been given a first glimpse of what a major building project at Murlough Nature Reserve, outside Newcastle, will look like.

Details of the impressive Coastal Conservation Centre proposal were revealed at a public information event at the site yesterday afternoon. Having now shared proposals with the community and stakeholders, the National Trust intend to submit a planning application this autumn and are hopeful they can complete site works next year.

The conservation charity says it is hoped the facility will allow visitors and nature enthusiasts “a more accessible and immersive experience of the site and its rare habitats and wildlife”. Offering what it describes as “unparalleled natural beauty” plus a 6,000-year-old dune system, the area first came into the care of the National Trust in 1967 when it was established as Ireland’s first National Nature Reserve.

As part of its plans for the build, the premises would also offer an area for refreshments, plus exhibition space and a specialist, Changing Places Toilet. The Trust also wants the ensure that the building will act as a hub for not just the National Trust and the many thousands of people who visit the reserve each year, but also other conservation charities and community outreach groups.

Details of the impressive build were first revealed a fortnight ago, and during yesterday’s engagement event members of the project team were on hand to discuss the plans, described as “exciting”, with those who called in to find out more. In terms of the proposal, the Trust says it is keen to enhance its “community and visitors’ connection with this special place” as well as improve onsite facilities. Speaking ahead of yesterday’s event, Deborah Lowry, General Manager for the National Trust in south Down told the Mourne Observer that the centre will ensure the reserve “is a place where everyone is welcome and has access to nature”. She also explained that the building has been planned “to sit sympathetically in the landscape” and that it is designed to be as sustainable as possible and to have a minimal footprint.

As previously reported in this paper, the National Trust team have been working closely with the ‘MarPAMM’ project to better understand the coastal processes which are shaping Murlough National Nature Reserve and the surrounding area. Deborah said there is still further research required to understand the potential of coastal erosion and how it might impact areas. “As we continue to learn about the challenges of climate change and coastal erosion, we hope that such work and findings can be highlighted at the Coastal Conservation Centre. “It has shown us that there is much work to do beyond the dunes and we look forward to working in partnership with the community to plan strategically for the future of Murlough and indeed the inner bay of Dundrum,” she elaborated. “We’re really keen to create a space for everyone to use including community groups and other charities.

We want the Coastal Conservation Centre to become a multi-use space for nature, education and conservation.” Another key issue that Deborah believes the new centre will help address is the recent antisocial behaviour which has caused significant damage to sensitive dune habitat. With the Trust official “confident that an increased presence at Murlough can help address this issue,”

Deborah added: “We are hopeful that by sharing more about what makes this place so special, it will encourage visitors to help look after it for future generations. “This is a precious 6000-year-old haven for nature and wildlife, and by investing in it in this way, we can continue this legacy for years to come.

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