Thursday, July 25, 2024
15.9 C
    Weather warning!

    Weather warning!

    Opponents say high winds would ‘frequently force’ proposed multimillion-pound visitor attraction to shut down

    HIGH winds will play havoc with Newcastle’s proposed cable-car ride, leading to the multimillion-pound attraction becoming a financial liability, opponents of the project have claimed.

    The suggestion has been made by the Mourne Gateway Info Group, which was formed last year and has been raising concerns about the proposed major visitor attraction since then.

    Its founder, Geoff Ingram, has described the findings of its new study as “shocking” and claimed the “ill-conceived” attraction “may have to close many times in the year due to excessive wind speeds”.

    The results, he adds, “cast serious doubts on the project’s financial viability”.

    In March 2023, Newry Mourne and Down District Council revealed its plans for the attraction, which would set off from a base station at Donard Park and make its way to a visitor centre at the former, and now rewilded, quarry on Thomas Mountain.

    Having obtained detailed information from scientific weather databases, the group has produced a graph (pictured inside) of the period from September 2023 to April 2024.

    It says it clearly shows that wind gusts at the quarry on Thomas’s Mountain, where the proposed Mourne Gateway Project’s visitor centre would be sited, would “frequently force” the gondola to shut down.

    The group says it has now grown to over 1,100 members, and includes experts spanning diverse fields such as engineering, architecture, environmental science, biodiversity, finance, and law.

    With its detailed weather information collated, the group says its statistics, which have been seen by the Mourne Observer, show the area has been known to be hit by gusts well in excess of 100 km/ph, and that these are a legitimate concern.

    Other visible evidence of the strength of these high winds in the area include recently uprooted mature trees, whilst others have had large branches “which have been snapped off”.

    Speaking on behalf of the group, Mr Ingram said the proposal is “deeply flawed”.

    “No research had been done into weather conditions by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council before going forward with this £50 million proposal, much of it to be funded by ratepayers.

    “Wind is a really important factor in running a gondola, so we contacted the Nevis Range Mountain Gondola operators in Scotland and asked at what wind speed and wind gust speeds they would cease operations.

    “They told us that when winds approached 30mph (45 km/ph) or gusts reached 40 mph (65 km/ph) the gondola would cease to operate.”

    The local man continued: “Wind speeds in the mountains tend to be considerably higher than at ground level, so we calculated this with a mathematical formula used by mountaineers.

    “Winds in the Mournes often cause vortices that can even be seen continuing out to sea. These mini whirlwinds have been known to strip off roof tiles, and high winds have caused huge numbers of large trees to be blown over or snapped off in Donard Forest.”

    Arguing that “of course, wind is not the only problem”, Mr Ingram added his group believes factors such as low cloud, localised flooding and even snow will prevent visitors from using the gondola at several points in the year.

    “In poor weather, how many people will even want to pay to go up there?” he queried.

    Following a public information day, staged by the council in March 2023, the Mourne Gateway Info Group polled its members on whether or not they supported the scheme.

    The result was 78 per cent against and 22 per cent in favour of the project.

    Commenting on these results, Mr Ingram continued: “Since the council have consistently refused to consult ratepayers, or even to answer any of our questions, we feel that our poll is the only real measure of local opinion on this doomed project.

    “And, strangely enough, the council seem to agree with us,” he went on to say.

    “The council’s own Consultation and Engagement Report states that ‘support for the gondola is not there’. This has prompted us to write to the council’s chief executive Marie Ward, asking why they continue to ignore alternative schemes and spend ratepayers’ money on a deeply flawed project without public support.”

    Claiming that “large amounts of ratepayers’ money has been spent on this project so far, without even the most basic research being carried out beforehand,” Mr Ingram stated that “there are much better projects that could be put in place at a much lower cost in terms of money, the environment and with much less risk”.

    He said that “such is the level of anger in the area about the council’s lack of any consultation or engagement with ratepayers” that the group also registered a complaint with NIPSO, the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman, regarding what he described as “their lack of accountability”.

    Mourne Gateway Info Group has also launched a petition against the gondola, which has attracted well over 1,300 signatures in a matter of days. This can be accessed via the website and then going to the petitions section and searching for ‘gondola’.

    Demanding ‘an immediate halt’ to the ‘ill-conceived venture’, the petition claims that the project ‘threatens to irreversibly damage our cherished natural landscape, endanger wildlife habitats, and impose financial burdens on ratepayers’.

    It also calls on the district council to reconsider and explore what it terms more sustainable alternatives that prioritise environmental preservation and community needs.

    In addition to weather and seasonal factors, arguments presented for halting the project include a lack of public consultation, the ‘disregard’ for eco-friendly alternatives and financial risk.

    When contacted about the group’s latest concerns, a council spokeswoman said it “acknowledges the Mourne Gateway Information Group’s concerns in respect of the weather conditions at the location of the project”.

    She also confirmed that the local authority’s “team of expert consultants will consider all factors that will impact the operations of the gondola access to the attraction during the design development process, including the wind.”

    The representative added that “maintenance requirements and interruption due to weather have been considered within the case study for the project.”

    Subscribe Today

    Read the full article.

    Full story inside this week’s print edition or Login/subscribe to access our Digital Edition & App

    More articles

    This website uses cookies. Using this website means you are okay with this. You can find out more and learn how to manage cookies by clicking the 'More Info' link.