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County Antrim UK travel

Antrim overnight motorhome stopover needed, campaigners say

Calls have been made for an overnight motorhome stopover in Antrim, Northern Ireland.

Ally Onion from Muckamore said that such a site could help generate tens of thousands of pounds for the local economy each year.

In Northern Ireland and the Republic, motorhomes, falling within the definition of a ‘temporary dwelling’ are restricted in where they can park and are seen as being unfriendly to motorhome tourists.

Groups like The Motorhome Council and Motorcaravanning Ireland are campaigning for the provision of overnight motorhome parking, created and managed in line with the French ‘Aires’ model and which will offer safe and appropriate parking places throughout Ireland

Colin McCarthy, who sits in both groups, said: “The creation of a sufficient number of such overnight motorhome parking places will enable motorhome tourists to tour at their leisure and enjoy the beauty of our country, be it our rugged Atlantic coastline, excellent ‘Blue Flag’ beaches, inland lakes and mountains or historic cities and towns.

“We do not support camping, wild or otherwise, apart from on private land with the owners permission or approved caravan and camping parks.”

Mr Onion, who also sits on the Motorhome Council said an Antrim aire would provide a huge boost to tourism, particularly now that more people are holidaying at home because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

He added: “We have been campaigning for ten years now for Aires all over Ireland, north and south.

“Two to three years back I approached (Alliance councillor) Neil Kelly about getting an Aire in Antrim town and pointed out an area suitable.

“Some work has progressed in this and I understand it is now at a proposal stage.

“I would like to explain the concept and hope that businesses in Antrim town can see the benefits of an Aire and help us push this forward to bring tourism and business to Antrim town.

Related: Gwynedd Council approves £100,000 pilot to establish six ‘aires’

“An Aire is the common name used to describe overnight parking and service points for self contained motorcaravans or motorhomes, these are found all over mainland Europe and in many other countries around the world.

“What distinguishes an Aire from a campsite is the fact that an Aire is parking and sleeping but no external equipment, maximum 72 hour stay and no camping behaviour allowed.

“No area greater than the footprint of the vehicle can be used.

“The UK has yet to recognise the huge financial benefit of the self contained touring motorcaravan.

“Now estimated to be worth over £1bn per year to the local economy from the UK and Irish motorcaravans alone.

“In the Republic of Ireland there are 14,500, there are 4,500 campsite pitches, most taken up by Static caravans, there are around 1500 left for 14,500 motorhomes and that’s not taking into account caravans.

“Like many motorcaravan owners, we owned a touring caravan, after Christmas we would plan our trips for the year and book our sites.

Related: Campaign for Real Aires aims to relieve pressures of UK’s staycation boom

“We would set up camp for long weekends or two week holidays, this was our base to tour the area in our car. Now we have a self contained motorcaravan designed to allow us to park up and have all the facilities onboard.

“We no longer plan and book months ahead, we simply decide at a moment’s notice to go away.

“Last month we visited the North Coast.

“We planned our first night and set off with no idea where we were going next or when we would return.

“In Northern Ireland, Portrush already has an Aire, as does Brougshane, Portglenone, Carrickgfergus and Coleraine, all through campaigning and education by Motorhome owners.

“My website motorhomecraic.com has 9,000 registered members and 43 million visitors, I have won a tourism award in 2018 from TourismNI for Motorhome Craic and my app Motorhome Parking Ireland.

“We also run the Motorhome Council.

“In Europe we feel welcome everywhere we go. In our own country we feel unwanted with height barriers, no motorhome signs and campsites who refuse to provide for our needs.

“Because we have our own facilities, we only need access to fresh water and waste disposal – a simple cold water tap and access to a sewer.”

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