Court ruling could put local jobs at risk, says councillor

Cllr Alexander Redpath
Cllr Alexander Redpath

A Killultagh councillor says he fears a number of jobs could be lost in the local area if the Department for Infrastructure puts a stop to sand extraction operations in Lough Neagh.

UUP Cllr Alexander Redpath was commenting on the outcome of an Appeal Court legal challenge by Friends of the Earth, which means the department must now reconsider its position in relation to the commercial activities on the lough.

The court ruled that former Environment Minister Mark H Durkan took the wrong approach when he opted issue an enforcement notice rather than a stop notice that would have immediately halted sand dredging in Lough Neagh.

The ruling doesn’t mean that sand dredging must stop immediately, but Friends of the Earth has said it will be calling on the department to issue a stop notice.

Cllr Redpath said: “This entire issue is a legal quagmire and there are serious questions regarding the planning status of these commercial activities. What cannot be escaped, however, is that sand extraction maintains jobs in our community and this activity has been ongoing for decades without evidence of major environmental consequences.

“I hope the department bears these jobs in mind, as well as the potential impact on the wider construction sector, when reconsidering its position on this matter.”