Calls for action over illegal car washes

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Lisburn City Council is calling on the Department of the Environment and NI Water to take enforcement action against illegal car washes that are operating in the city.

At a recent meeting of the council’s Planning Committee, members agreed to write to the relevant authorities, urging them to take urgent enforcement action against car washes that were operating without planning permission or permission from NI Water.

Alderman Allan Ewart, Chairman of the Council’s Economic Development Committee, said: “I have been approached by legal car washes about the illegal ones. We need to contact the Planning Service urging them to carry out enforcement action as soon as possible. Enforcement seems to take a long time and this should be pursued.”

Councillor Stephen Martin added: “We should request a time scale for enforcement. It doesn’t send out a good signal that once a government department has made a decision, nothing will be done about it. The council needs to send out a strong message that this won’t go unchallenged.”

The Chairman of the council’s Planning Committee, Councillor Uel Mackin, said he knew of car washes in the city that were being driven out of business by those operating illegally.

A spokesperson for NI Water said they knew about illegal car washes operating in Lisburn and urged anyone with information to contact them.

“NI Water is aware that there are potentially some illegal, unregulated car washes in the Lisburn area and in other parts of Northern Ireland,” he said. “Procedures are in place to ensure that the correct occupier of any unlicensed car wash site is identified and the user is billed.

“NI Water encourages the public and its own staff to report any car washes suspected to be illegal. Many of these are highly transient, however, and sites are often vacated before an investigatory visit can be carried out.

“Regarding consent to discharge, this should be sought from NI Water by the occupier of a trade premises prior to the discharge of any trade effluent to the foul sewer. Failure to do so may result in enforcement action being taken against the occupier of the premises.”

A spokesperson for the Department of the Environment said: “The Department is mindful of its duty to enforce planning legislation and to ensure that development is managed in a proactive and proportionate manner. In determining the most appropriate course of action in response to alleged breaches of planning control, the Department will take into account the extent of the breach and its potential impact on the environment.