Lough Neagh sand-dredging can continue, says Department of Infrastructure

The decision on sand-dredging was referred back to the Department of Infrastructure by the appeal court
The decision on sand-dredging was referred back to the Department of Infrastructure by the appeal court

Sand-dredging at Lough Neagh can continue subject to conditions, the Department of Infrastructure has determined.

In June, the Court of Appeal ruled 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.”