By Jonathan McCambridge (PA)
A number of trees in Northern Ireland’s famous Dark Hedges are to be removed amid concerns they could pose a risk to the public.
Stormont’s Department of Infrastructure said removal and remedial work will begin at the site in Co Antrim on November 20.
Six of the trees will be removed and remedial work will be carried out on several others.
The tunnel of trees became famous when it was featured in the HBO fantasy series Game Of Thrones and now attracts significant numbers of tourists from around the world.
However, concerns have been raised about the state of several of the beech trees and a number have blown down during storms in recent years.
The trees in Bregagh Road, near Stranocum, are on privately owned land.
A spokesman from the department said: “Following concerns about the condition of some of the trees, the department commissioned an independent specialist survey which found that 11 trees, out of a total of 86, along this route are in a poor condition and could pose a potential risk to the public.
“The department immediately liaised with the relevant landowners and other stakeholders; however, given the urgency of the work required, arrangements have now been made to remove six of the trees (stump retained) and carry out remedial work to four trees, to reduce the risk to the wider public.
“The condition of one further tree will be assessed on site.
“This decision has not been made lightly and, whilst the amenity value afforded by the corridor of trees is acknowledged, the safety of road users is paramount.
“The department will continue to engage with landowners and other stakeholders regarding their implementation of a suitable management strategy to protect the future of the other 75 trees.”
The spokesman added: “Completion of the works on or before 24 November 2023 is dependent on favourable weather conditions; however the department will keep the public informed of any change.
“All work will be carried out in line with current public health and health and safety advice, with safe systems of working in place for staff and contractors.
“The Bregagh Road, which is already closed to traffic at this location, will also be closed to pedestrians during these planned works.
“The department apologises for any inconvenience. In order to ensure the safety for the contractors and the public, everyone is asked to comply with the road closures and restrictions.”
The trees were planted to line the Bregagh Road to Gracehill House, which was built around 1775.
Originally, there were about 150 trees, but only 86 remain.