Staff have been recruited by the Lough Neagh Partnership to commence the task of developing a major Conservation Action Plan for the whole of Lough Neagh.
In October 2013, the Partnership was allocated £2.58m in funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) following a successful first round application to the HLF Landscape Partnership grant programme.
To secure the funding a full detailed Landscape Conservation Action Plan needs to be developed.
Gerry Darby, who has a strong background in landscape management work on the Lough, together with Chi McGuckin who comes with extensive financial management experience, have been tasked with drawing up and providing HLF with the new detailed integrated landscape action plan.
The plan will take over 16 months to work up and will entail undertaking a full landscape character assessment of the Lough, developing an agreed vision through community consultation, identifying individual heritage projects, firming up partnership agreements, and creating a management system to oversee the ambitious project.
It is anticipated than on the submission of the plan in 2015 that the allocated £2.58 million of HLF investment will be rolled out over the subsequent five years.
Paul Mullan, Head of HLF Northern Ireland, added their support: “HLF was delighted to award the initial Landscape Partnership grant offer to the Lough Neagh Partnership and we are keen to see the detail of the project emerge over the coming months.
“Landscape Conservation Action Plans are critical plans for the protection, enjoyment and sustainable management of our precious landscapes.
“We wish the new Lough Neagh team every success and are pleased to be able to support their work via the development grant of £84,200 but also by offering the experience of the whole HLF team.”
The chairman of the Lough Neagh Partnership, Shane O Neill, said: “This new Landscape Conservation Action Plan is an important new step in the revitalisation of Lough Neagh.
“It is important that the plan has a strong local and community input and the development process will genuinely allow local communities have a say in defining what they think are the landscape conservation needs of the Lough.”
A number of partners including the local Councils, RSPB, NIEA, the River Bann and Lough Neagh Association and the University of Ulster have already indicated strong support for the landscape proposal and will be working closely with the new team to work up the new plan.