Decision on sand dredging will safeguard local jobs, says councillor

Cllr Alexander Redpath
Cllr Alexander Redpath

A Killultagh councillor says the Department of Infrastructure’s decision to allow sand dredging to continue in Lough Neagh will safeguard a number of local jobs.

UUP representative Alexander Redpath, who previously raised concerns about the threat to the sand extraction industry in the area, said he was “delighted” with the department’s ruling.

In June, the Court of Appeal ruled that officials in the department should review a decision by former environment minister Mark H Durkan not to issue a stop notice in 2015.

Instead, the minister chose to issue an enforcement notice, meaning companies were able to appeal against it and keep extracting sand pending the outcome of the ongoing appeal.

Court action was taken by environmental campaign group Friends of the Earth, who feared the ongoing dredging was harming the EU-protected site, which is an important bird habitat.

The appeal court ruled that the minister had taken the wrong approach and referred the matter back to the department for immediate attention.

But the department has determined that it is “not expedient” to issue a stop notice at this time.

In a statement, the department said the decision was taken “based on the knowledge of the sand traders’ activities and up to date environmental information”.

It added: “Sand dredging may continue subject to the implementation of and adherence to mitigation measures and working conditions. The Lough Neagh Sand Traders have accepted all working parameters.”

Welcoming the latest announcement, Cllr Redpath said: “I am delighted that the department has reconsidered their decision in regards to sand dredging in Lough Neagh. This is an important industry in my district and it maintains a number of jobs.

“I commend the department for working alongside the Lough Neagh Sand Traders to agree appropriate environmental conditions that will protect this unique site whilst allowing the traders to continue their business.

“Environmental purists would be well advised to note the balanced and considered approach the department has taken to accommodate all parties in this dispute.”