Knock turbine in place as MP calls for inquiry.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Knock turbine in place as MP calls for inquiry. thumbnail Installation of the wind turbine at the Knock last Thursday.

A WIND turbine dogged with opposition has gone up on the Knock hill outside Rathfriland.

The 40-metre turbine was raised on lands off the Fernhill Road, Katesbridge last Thursday - days after a council stop notice timed out.

Preparatory groundwork had already started for the 40-metre turbine site prior to council's 11th hour intervention last month. The stop notice prevented any further work taking place to erect the wind turbine.

The project has attracted some objections and was halted by a temporary stop notice for 28 days. This council intervention was lifted last Monday night at midnight.

Campaigners from the Save Knock Iveagh group argue the privately owned site has archaeological significance as a Neolithic burial cairn and have cast a shadow on the planning process calling it "flawed".

Planning permission was granted in 2013 for the turbine.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard said the public deserve an inquiry into Knock Iveagh "destruction".

"The expiration of the 28-day stop notice has allowed construction to recommence but Sinn Féin are calling for all work to be suspended until a full public inquiry can be carried out to establish the full impact of the development."

Campaigners are championing for planning permission granted in 2013 for a turbine on the site of the 600-yearold historic Knock Iveagh Cairn to be revoked due to "omissions from the original application" with no reference to the site as a burial cairn and protected scheduled monument status.

A council spokesman says the notice was served due to an "apparent breach of planning control".

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.

The site was granted permission for a turbine in 2013 when planning powers lay within the Department of the Environment but archaeology experts were not consulted.

The Neolithic burial site was made the subject of a council enforcement notice after a broadband mast was placed on the site without planning per mission.

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.

Meanwhile, in a section from its most recent statement, council explained its decision: "The council has now concluded that it will not be serving an enforcement notice or a final stop notice.

"However, it has concluded that it is appropriate to take action in relation to the access track and electricity cabinets so that these works can be regularised in planning terms.

"The council has therefore decided to serve a submission notice in relation to the access track requiring a planning application to be made for that track, and to serve Breach of Condition Notices in relation to the electricity cabinets, requiring details of the design and external appearance of those cabinets to be notified to the Council for approval.

"With regard to requests that planning permission for the turbine is revoked, these requests remains under consideration by the council." Council's enforcement investigation report found three separate breaches of planning controls, two of which have been assessed as having a "moderate" or "major" impact on the setting of the scheduled monument.

The Friends of Knock Iveagh Action Group said they were "appalled" to discover that council allowed the temporary stop notice to expire without issuing an enforcement notice or an indefinite stop notice on the site.

In a statement they said they "were disappointed by the failure of ABC planners effectively to enforce planning breaches at Knock Iveagh, especially given the likelihood of further, possibly extensive archaeology at this site".

"We have made a number of requests for information on various planning issues including the process by which applications were selected by planners for streamlining and why there was no archaeological consultation before approval for the turbine was given. As yet we have not received answers to our queries.

"The current Banbridge, Newry and Mourne Area Plan states that the Plan Area contains a range of important archaeological sites, many of which are scheduled under the provisions of the Historic Monuments and Archaeological Objects (NI) Order 1995 and some are presently in the care of the department.

"The preservation of such sites and their settings is of the highest priority.

"We believe Knock Iveagh demonstrates clearly a situation where the area plan has not been followed by planners, and in light of the recommendations in the Waringstown Report we believe this raises serious planning questions.

The situation at Knock Iveagh affords ABC councillors an ideal opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to the regional plan and numerous other planning policies, and to reaffirm their commitment to preserving and promoting the important heritage in this area.

"We hope councillors will appreciate the opportunities now presented to them at Knock Iveagh, in particular in relation to the ongoing regeneration in the Rathfriland area."


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