Week for lough appeal replies

Sand barges operating on Lough Neagh on Wednesday, July 15
Sand barges operating on Lough Neagh on Wednesday, July 15

Anyone “wishing to make representations” on the sand traders’ appeal against the Environment Minister’s order to stop taking sand from Lough Neagh, has just one week to act.

The public notice, issued by the Planning Appeals Commission, appeared in last week’s Mail and states six companies are involved in “the alleged unauthorised working of minerals” from “land at Lough Neagh”.

It comes after companies including the Shaftesbury Estate of Lough Neagh, P&J Walls, A&E Mulholland, Norman Emerson Group Ltd, Northstone (NI) Ltd and Lagan Group all lodged an appeal against the “stop notice” on June 29 - meaning they can continue work until the case is heard.

Shaftesbury Estate owns the mineral rights to the bed of Lough Neagh and permits sand barges to suck up material between Ballyronan and Ardboe, in what is now a 70-year-old industry.

The six companies’ appeal against Department of the Environment’s instruction could cost them £250,000. They say around 200 jobs are on the line and that ending the dredging could have a knock on effect on the construction industry.

On May 28, Environment Minister Mark H Durkan issued a stop notice, giving the six companies involved until June 30 to stop taking sand from Lough Neagh as they had no planning permission to do so.

Despite the fact planning powers have now been handed over to councils, DOE will oversee this case [ref EN/2015/0109].

The Mail reported on May 20 how the Environment Minister had failed to protect Lough Neagh from ‘illegal sand extraction’.

The dredging had no planning permission and was taking place in a bird habitat with European protection.

Both the Green Party and Friends of the Earth NI have spoken out against the sand extraction and a complaint has also been lodged with the European Commission.

It has also emerged that the Northern Ireland Audit Office is investigating the environmental impact of sand extraction, focussing specifically on DOE’s role.

Documents lodged at the Planning Appeals Commission show the Shaftesbury Estate has four grounds of appeal.