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Planning row over threats to scheduled ancient monument in NI

Words: Roger Milne

A Northern Ireland local authority has become embroiled in a complicated planning row involving two separate developments that threaten a scheduled prehistoric monument at Rathfriland in County Down.

This week Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council served a temporary stop notice on contractors who were involved in preparatory work for a single wind turbine proposed within 100 metres of Knockiveagh cairn, a prehistoric burial monument.

The council has also now refused retrospective planning permission for a mobile phone mast erected near the monument.

The Department for Communities has been liaising with the planning authority. Its Historic Environment Division had told the local authority that the mast should be refused because of its adverse impact on the setting of the monument.

The Historic Environment Division is equally opposed to the wind turbine, which was approved by the then Department of the Environment in 2013 when the Northern Ireland Executive was responsible for planning and several years before councils assumed their current planning powers.

In a statement the Department for Communities told The Planner: “Planning permission appears to have been issued without due consideration of the potential effects upon the setting of the scheduled monument, located approximately 100 metres to the south-east of the turbine.

"The Historic Environment Division was not consulted during the consideration of the application. Based upon the evidence available to us, the department considers that the erection of the turbine will have an adverse visual impact upon the integrity of the setting of the monument, which should be considered as contrary to planning policy. We have informed the planning authority of our concerns.”

The council is under pressure to revoke the turbine consent but is known to be concerned it could be liable for compensation which could be as much as £750,000.

The only statement the council has made so far confirms the stop notice and adds that this action was taken “because it thinks that there has been a breach of planning control at the site and that it is expedient to cease the apparent breach immediately”.

"The council will consider the implications of this notice before it makes any decisions,” it adds.

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