Sinn Féin Councillor Cara McShane, and Philip McGuigan MLA, who have been at the forefront of the Greenway campaign for several years, have both welcomed the work plan that will see significant development of the Ballycastle to Ballymoney project.
The ‘Greenway of Thrones’, costing £4.4, will follow the route of the former Ballycastle to Ballymoney line.
The Ballycastle Railway opened in 1880 running between Ballymoney to Ballycastle. It was a narrow-gauge railway which operated passenger and freight services for almost 70 years until it was closed by the Ulster Transport Authority 1950.
Speaking about the project, Cllr McShane, said: “The Greenway is an exciting and ambitious plan that will provide approximately 30 kilometres off-road route for pedestrians and cyclists, along the former railway line between Ballycastle and Ballymoney.
“This project is expected to help tackle social inequalities, improve health and well-being and provide a safe, environmentally-friendly link for effective everyday travel.
“Learning from the experiences of other Greenways across these islands, the ‘Greenway of Thrones’ will be a significant tourist attraction, providing an alternative route for visitors to access popular locations, including the iconic Dark Hedges.
“The economic spin-off is also significant. 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.
“Following competition of a feasibility study, the council has now progressed work on an outline business case and has engaged in significant route mapping exercises.
“Over the next few months, the council will lead on a comprehensive consultation plan to engage with communities along the extent of the proposed greenway corridor and with landowners, who will be central to the deliverability of the Greenway.
Sinn Féin MLA Philip McGuigan, added: “I welcome the news of movement on this Greenway project and the fact that the council now has a timetable to ensure progress is made.
“I am an enthusiastic supporter of the benefits of Greenways to local communities.
The potential of the Greenway from Ballycastle to Ballymoney, however, is limitless. To go beyond active travel and health benefits; and to provide a major economic and tourist boost to the two host towns, as well as the villages and hamlets along the route.
“It is imperative that the council works in a positive way with local communities and landowners right from the start to protect and build on this momentum.”