May Day ‘madness’ as Slieve Gullion visitors block access to nearby homes

May 8, 2017

Despite pledging over two years ago that it would provide a long term sustainable solution to parking arrangements at Slieve Gullion Park, it appears that the Council’s efforts to do so have fallen short, with many residents of Wood Road left unable to access their homes over last week’s May Day Bank Holiday, due to the huge numbers of cars parked there by visitors to the nearby south Armagh tourist attraction.

Traffic and parking issues are nothing new in the area as the increasing appeal of Slieve Gullion to day visitors over recent years has continued to impact negatively on residents living close to the park and to road users of the narrow access routes.

On Easter Monday and Tuesday similar problems arose for visitors and residents alike as hundreds of day-trippers flocked to the area, creating traffic tailbacks and congestion which led to many who were turned away from Slieve Gullion seeking alternative parking along the surrounding country roads. The issue has been compounded by the fact that the Council Park and Ride initiative, implemented to alleviate the traffic and parking problems, is no longer in operation.

One outraged Wood Road resident spoke to The Examiner about what she described as the “summer madness.”

The disgruntled local told us that access to homes along the road was “impossible” on May Day due to the fact that parked cars were partially restricting access to the road while others blocked gateways to properties.

“With thousands of cars going down this road how are we expected to safely get up?” asked the woman, who added that the road needed to be upgraded as it was not fit for the volume of traffic using it now

She said cones had been provided along the route to alleviate the situation but they had “disappeared overnight.”

“In an emergency situation how would any vehicle reach us if our lives were in danger? It’s time something was done about it,” demanded the angry resident, who stressed that people living near Slieve Gullion have been calling for action to be taken since Easter 2015, when they were first besieged by daytrippers parking and abandoning their cars.

In addition to the access problems experienced by local residents, The Examiner has also learned that several motorists who sought to take the scenic route along the Forest Drive to Slieve Gullion over the Easter period were turned away by Council employees when car parks were full, despite the fact that they did not intend to use the parking facilities.

Responding to the issues raised by The Examiner, a council spokesperson said that

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council had provided 80 additional temporary spaces over the holiday period and is also currently finalising a planning application for further parking within the site.

The Council representative said the issue of parking on Wood Road has also been raised with the PSNI and added that the traffic cones along the route have since been replaced by NMDCC.

According to the spokesperson, the Park and Ride facility will not be in operation during 2017 as the Council is planning for additional car park spaces within the site.  On the issue of Forest Drive visitors being turned away, The Examiner was assured that employees “will always endeavour to provide access to the site where possible and those wishing to use the Forest drive will be re-directed accordingly.”

Meanwhile, the issue of parking at Slieve Gullion Park is up for discussion at the Enterprise, Regeneration and Tourism Committee meeting to be held later today (Monday, 8th May), with consideration being given to introducing a booking system to the park to alleviate traffic and parking.