Work to erect a wind turbine on the Knock Hill outside Rathfriland is to start this week, it has been suggested.
The Neolithic burial site on Knock Iveagh was made the subject of a council enforcement notice last month after a broadband mast was placed on the site without planning permission.
A retrospective planning application was lodged for the mast and the planning law breach caused political condemnation and for a lobby group to unite to protect the ancient site.
And a turbine could soon be joining the mast on the site, privately owned by local farmers. Planning permission was granted back in 2013 for wind turbine just below the summit of the site.
Condemning on the development, a Friends of Knock Iveagh spokesman said: “The Friends of Knock Iveagh are shocked to learn that not only has a broadband mast been erected, without planning approval, beside the Neolithic burial site (cairn) on Knock Iveagh, but in a move which seems to contradict numerous planning guidelines, it appears planning permission has already been granted to build a 41.5 metre tall wind turbine beside the cairn atop Knock Iveagh. This turbine could be erected as soon as in the next few days.
“The ancient burial site on Knock Iveagh is almost 6000 years old and archaeologists say that the hill itself may well have been used to inaugurate local kings and chiefs in ancient times. Archaeologists also take the view that views to and from the hill are of fundamental importance to the significance of this site.
“The cairn is a scheduled historic monument and is supposed to benefit from the greatest possible protection in law.” The Friends of Knock Iveagh have sought legal advice and say they are “particularly baffled at how planning permission was ever granted for a turbine on this particular site”.
The Friends have posed questions for Armagh Banbridge and Craigavon Council and the Department for Infrastructure on why planning permission was granted for a wind turbine on a hill of significant historical importance and beside a Neolithic burial site and why it appears that the planning application was ‘fast tracked’.
“The Friends understand that streamlined planning processes are designed for use in non-contentious simple applications, such as converting your garage into a room. How could a wind turbine on this site ever have been considered a suitable application for fast tracking? “Why was there no consultation with NIEA: Protecting Historic Monuments unit (now known as Historic Environment Division), and why does it appear that there was no consideration given to Planning Policy Statement – Planning, Archaeology and the Built Heritage, given that this area is the site of an ancient monument? The Friends of Knock Iveagh is calling on Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council to revoke planning permission given “serious flaws in the planning process”.
South Down’s MP Sinn Féin’s Chris Hazzard has called on council and the Department for Infrastructure to take urgent action.
“Given the precious status of such a site, it is unimaginable that an application for a wind turbine well within the 200-metre scheduled area of the cairn would be granted planning permission – indeed such a decision seems to be entirely contrary to planning policy BH1 of PPS6 which sets out the parameters in planning matters concerning the settings of archaeological remains.
“In addition it appears this streamlined planning process was concluded without consulting with the Historic Environment Division (HED). Indeed considering the HED is a statutory consultee in such circumstances planning officials now have serious questions to answer as to how this has been allowed to happen.
“I have now asked both the Department for Infrastructure, and Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council to take urgent action to halt any development on or near this site immediately until a full review of the planning permission has been carried out and the HED given full access to the planning application.” Meanwhile, Alliance Councillor Patrick Brown said: “We recognise the unique and hugely significant heritage of Knock Iveagh and the important role it plays in local shared heritage.
“Given this permission was granted prior to the devolution of planning and therefore did not give local people or elected representatives a say, I believe ABC councillors should look again at this application and ask 1: Was proper community and statutory consultation carried out at the time and 2: Why has the developer waited so long to build the turbine?” Meanwhile, Kieran Heenan, chairman of Annaclone Historical Society, said: “Annaclone Historical Society were shocked to hear of the proposed plans for Knock Iveagh and even more so that they had received planning approval.
“We are deeply concerned for the future of the site which has been an important landmark in the area for thousands of years. We hope that a resolution to the current situation can be found without delay and the site protected for many years to come.” The Friends have also set up a petition concerning the erection of the unauthorised broadband mast, which has garnered over 1,400 signatures so far.
In addition, in association with Annaclone Historical Society, the Friends of Knock Iveagh have set up a gofundme account to fund taking legal advice and, if necessary, legal action to protect the site. This account can be found at www.gofundme.com/saveknockiveagh
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