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Lough Neagh sand-dredging developments

Words: Roger Milne

The companies appealing environment minister Mark H Durkan’s order to stop dredging sand from Lough Neagh face escalating costs estimated at over a quarter of a million pounds.

Five sand companies and the Shaftesbury estate, which owns the bed of the Lough, are challenging a direction to stop extraction.

But an appeal also serves as an application for planning permission, and that will cost each of the six parties more than £40,000.

The minister intervened over the long-running activities of the companies last month and ordered them to halt dredging operations.

Sand has been extracted from the bed of the lough since the 1930s, but the operation has never had planning permission.

It is estimated that about 1.7 million tonnes a year are removed using special dredging barges.

The sand dredged from the lough supplies around a quarter of Northern Ireland’s construction needs annually.

But the Lough is also an important bird habitat, protected by EU directives.

Environmentalists had complained that unregulated sand extraction was threatening the site.