After a six year legal wrangle, Infrastructure Minister, Nichola Mallon has approved the planning application for the extraction of sand from Lough Neagh, used mainly by the construction industry, subject to a number of conditions.
This follows the Minister’s careful consideration of the Planning Appeals Commission’s (PAC) report on the Public Local Inquiry which was held in June 2018. The proposal is located in the north west corner of the Lough which is a designated Special Protection Area (SPA), Ramsar site and Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI).
Minister Mallon said: “This approval was a finely balanced decision where I had to weigh up the various benefits with the potential for harm to the designation features of the Lough. I carefully considered both the findings of the independent Public Inquiry and further representations received from interested parties alongside the recommendations of my planning officials. The PAC report also recommended that planning permission should be granted.
“I am an advocate for protection of the environment, and particularly a special one such as Lough Neagh. Taking account of all of the comments made, I have come to the view that there will be no adverse effect caused by the development on the Lough in terms of its integrity or other aspects of its designated status provided that suitable conditions and agreed measures are put in place.
“Given the importance of maintaining the integrity of the designated status of Lough Neagh, my final decision will issue only when the Section 76 Planning Agreement with the applicant and relevant parties has been concluded to my satisfaction. I look forward to a speedy conclusion of that process.”
The application covers the extraction of sand and gravel from within two distinct areas totalling some 3.1km2, in the north-west of Lough Neagh situated approximately east of Traad Point, north of Stanierds Point, west of Doss Point and south of Ballyronan.