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Controversial infill plans at Maghery rescinded – but questions raised over process

Maghery infill site plans

Controversial plans for an infill site on the shore of Lough Neagh in Maghery – approved earlier this year – have been rescinded.

The planning application, lodged by Cornett Design Associates Ltd, Armagh, on behalf of Francis Smyth in Portadown, was passed in January despite protests from local residents.

However, the application was back before the ABC Council’s committee on Tuesday night, with a recommendation for rescinding, following a letter from the Department for Infrastructure.

That letter raised questions over a settlement pond in the southern corner of the site but noted that this was “not included in the application description and does not appear to be included on the main application drawings” and therefore would require more information from the applicant.

Alderman Gareth Wilson said: “I’m not overly content with this at all, but I understand where we are, and understand DfI’s ultimate authority on it, and that we’re between a rock and a hard place, so I will reluctantly surrender to the to the rescinding and I want to make that very clear. I think it’s been a bit of a disaster, really, to get to this point and then still not be at a resolution.”

He added: “This is a very open-ended letter from DfI, who really, in my view, should be much more concise and to the point than they’re being here. I think it’s really disgraceful in that regard, and I want to put that on the record.

“I mean, they need to come out and tell us what their view is. Are they going to determine this or not? I really don’t want to be in the position where this is reheard and then DfI still can step in, otherwise, what are we doing here?”

Councillor Mulholland queried why this piece of information – and the letter from DfI, dated April 26 – took so long to be presented to the planning committee.

“I’m personally not happy with this,” said Councillor Mulholland. “I’m not happy with a few things. I’m not happy with the amount of time that it has taken this letter to come the light that was presented from DfI.

“I’m not happy that the settlement pond [information] wasn’t provided when we were first hearing this application and I’d like the question asked as to why it wasn’t?

“Because it seems to me that this has just been a complete waste of time, having these meetings and site meetings and not having the full information. I just think it’s total nonsense to be honest.”

The approval was ultimately rescinded by the committee.

Welcoming the decision, Sinn Féin councillor Clare McConville-Walker said she is delighted her concerns have been heard.

“I welcome the decision to rescind the planning application for the Maghery landfill site,” she said.

“After an initial green light, it transpired that there was information missing from the planning application resulting in councillors not having all the relevant details.

“Due to this, and what then came to light, it was only right that the decision was overturned.

“Sinn Féin will continue to stand up for the people of Maghery and Lough Neagh.”

Similarly, Portadown SDLP representative Eamon McNeil – who has campaigned against the project – welcomed the decision adding: “Myself and SDLP colleagues have been very vocal that this project could not have been allowed to go ahead, particularly in light of the environmental crisis that has developed at the lough over the past year.

“Working with local residents we sent a message loud and clear that this landfill was not appropriate in an area of outstanding natural beauty.

“Through public meetings and petitioning both the local council and Executive I am glad to say that common sense and people power has prevailed and this project will now not go ahead.

“This project should never have been approved in the first place and we should never have ended up in this situation.

“If we are going to safeguard Lough Neagh for future generations and protect this important resource then the last thing we need is landfill being established in its vicinity.

“I hope this will be the last word we hear on this project and everyone’s efforts now turn to cleaning up the ecological disaster at the lough.”

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