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Council may face 750k turbine costs.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Council may face 750k turbine costs. thumbnailThe telecoms mast already on the historic Knock site.

ARMAGH City, Banbridge and Craigavon Council may be liable for 750,000 costs over its decision to grant permission for a controversial wind turbine outside Rathfriland, writes Laura Barr.

Councillors debated last night (Monday) whether planning permission for a wind turbine on the site of the historic Knock Iveagh Cairn should be revoked.

Depending on last night's decision if planning permission is revoked it is understood councillors have been given legal advice that they could be liable for the costs of the project, which could be as much as 750,000.

Preparatory work has already happened on the site for the turbine making this an 11th hour intervention.

South Down's MP Sinn Fein's Chris Hazzard called on council and the Department for Infrastructure to take urgent action and called for protection for the 6,000-year-old site.

Speaking to The Outlook yesterday Mr Hazzard commented: "It is regrettable that this situation has got to this point. The ABC Council is having to clean up this mess which could end up being in the millions. I am aware that the council and the Department for Infrastructure are working together to get a resolution to this and it will be an absolute shame if the site is not protected going forward." The site privately owned by local farmers has already seen work commence to erect the 40m turbine which was granted permission in 2013 when planning powers lay within the Department of the Environment but archaeology experts were not consulted.

The Neolithic burial site on Knock Iveagh was made the subject of a council enforcement notice last month after a broadband mast was placed on the site without planning permission.

Following this, a retrospective planning application was lodged for the mast and the planning law breach caused political condemnation and for a lobby group to unite to protect the ancient site.

Residents in the area opposed to the turbine formed the lobby group, Friends of Knock Iveagh and they have condemned the development calling on council to revoke planning permission given "serious flaws in the planning process".

The group posed questions for the council and the Department for Infrastructure last night (Monday) on why planning permission was granted for a wind turbine on a hill of significant historical importance and beside a Neolithic burial site and why it appears that the planning application was 'fasttracked'.

The group understands that "streamlined planning processes are designed for use in non-contentious simple applications, such as converting your garage into a room" but they are confused as to how a wind turbine on this site could ever have been considered a suitable application for fast tracking.

They have sought legal advice and are: "particularly baffled at howplanning permission was ever granted for a turbine on this particular site".

Speaking before the council meeting, a spokesman from Friends of Knock Iveagh Group said: "We hope the council does the right thing. The council is too worried about the money but that is why the Department of Infrastructure should get involved.

It should not be up to us to hold council to account." Kieran Heenan, chairman of Annaclone Historical Society, said he was shocked to learn of the plans for Knock Iveagh and even more so that they had received planning approval.

"We hope that a resolution to the current situation can be found without delay and the site protected for many years to come." Banbridge DUP Alderman Junior McCrum offered 'no comment' yesterday on what he hoped the outcome would be following the council debate.

The Friends group has set up a petition concerning the erection of the unauthorised broadband mast, which has garnered over 1,400 signatures so far.

In addition, in association with Annaclone Historical Society, the Friends of Knock Iveagh has set up a gofundme account to fund taking legal advice and, if necessary, legal action to protect the site.

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