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Campaigners preparing to take legal action

Campaigners opposed to the construction of a wind turbine close to an ancient burial cairn in Rathfriland say they are preparing to take legal action in a bid to halt the controversial project.

Concerned residents expressed “shock and dismay” after work began last week to erect the turbine close to the legally protected Knock Iveagh Neolithic burial site.

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council has said it will not be serving an enforcement notice or a final stop notice on the work – though paradoxically, revocation of planning permission remains under consideration.

Construction had been temporarily stopped as the council investigated complaints, but the restriction ran out last Monday and work on erecting the massive turbine continued two days later.

Planning approval was granted by the Department of Environment (DoE) in 2013. However, it failed to carry out a regular consultation with its own Historic Environment Division (HED), which it is understood would have objected.

Since then, planning responsibility passed to local councils, with Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Council now managing the case.

The BBC reported that the council must compensate the developer £750,000 if it revokes planning permission, which the council has not disputed.

A council spokesperson said the local authority has investigated “the apparent breach of planning control”.

“The council has now concluded that it will not be serving an enforcement notice or a final stop notice,” she said.

The spokesperson added: “With regard to requests that planning permission for the turbine is revoked, these requests remains under consideration by the council.”

The ‘Friends of Knock Iveagh’ campaign group said they were “appalled” to discover work had been allowed to continue, stressing that the setting around the cairn is “integral to its function as a monument.”

“We remain hopeful that ABC Council will choose to revoke the planning permission on this extremely sensitive site; however preparations are also under way to file legal proceedings should it become necessary. We are preparing to launch a series of fundraising events to help cover our legal costs. We are optimistic about the prospects of our case and hope to recover a large proportion of our costs in court,” a statement issued by the group said.

Calling on people to stand with them “in defence of a shared heritage”, the Friends of Knock Iveagh have appealed to anyone interested in supporting their campaign to contact them via saveknockiveagh@gmail.com or to make a donation online at gofundme.com/saveknockiveagh

At the time of publication, the campaign page had raised more than £1,800 of its £20,000 target.