A CAMPAIGN against the project to cut down 14 mature trees for the construction of a car park at the Exploris Aquarium has collected nearly 52,000 signatures.
The Portaferry Save the Trees campaign group will deliver the petition to Bangor Castle this morning and plan a social distancing protest.
The council wants to clear the area for a £ 467,000 project providing 69 parking spaces for cars, coaches and people with disabilities, new toilets and pathways and street and lighting improvements in the Ropewalk area of Portaferry, next door from the aquarium.
Organizers wrote to members of Ards and the North Down council on Sunday to inform them of the scale of the opposition and the intention to hand over the petition.
“We appreciate that the notice is short, but so was the letter from the council at the end of May which alerted us for the first time to the fact that there would be a ‘disruption’ at the Exploris car park at the back of our homes – although the same letter does give us information on cutting down mature trees to build a parking lot, ”they said.
“We only received this information by asking the contractors your council sent to the site.”
Supporters gather at the Aurora parking lot and will come to the castle to deliver the petition.
Representatives of the group make a presentation to the advisers tomorrow.
Exploris has been Northern Ireland’s only aquarium since it opened in 1987, but faces competition after a rival was approved in the Belfast Titanic area.
Earlier this month, the board confirmed it was continuing with plans to cut down trees, with a board officer telling elected members that Exploris management believed the plan was “essential to its survival” and was to start work “as soon as possible”.
The online petition was started by resident Lily Devlin who said threatened trees lead to ancient forest.
“This will involve the destruction of a grove and a small meadow which will create a hard edge at the entrance to the beautiful Nugent Wood trail and in other areas a single old tree needs to be cut down to make way for a additional parking space. “
The council said the only part of the project requiring a building permit is a “blade” which is “classified as public art”, with an initial ecological investigation finding a nest in one of the trees that delayed work on it. a month until a new investigation could be done.
The manager told members it was “much more than parking spaces” but ensuring that children and visiting families “can take the trail and enter Exploris safely.”
He pledged to plant “at least 15 more trees” and more “if part of the budget allows”.
Portaferry Regeneration would also support the project.