The January 2018 release of the draft Belfast Coastal Reserve coastal management plan (BCRCMP) came as community concerns continued to mount about the impacts of commercial racehorse training on the area’s natural, cultural and recreational values, the protection of which was why the reserve was created in the 1980s.

Although there are many good elements to the draft BCRCMP—cultural heritage protection; joint management; monitoring; research; and the management of dogs, recreational horse riding, invasive species and illegal access— it remains deeply flawed because of its complicity in entrenching and expanding the use of the reserve by commercial racehorse trainers.

Under the draft BCRCMP, commercial racehorse training would rapidly expand onto multiple beaches and into fragile sand dunes, with devastating effects for the nationally threatened hooded plovers—the reserve is its most important breeding area in the state according to the plan—other coastal wildlife and the safety and enjoyment of mum, dad and the kids, anglers, surfers and other beachgoers, as well as the workplace safety of those in the racing industry.

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