The Friends of Knock Iveagh have appealed to the Department of Infrastructure to intervene as they continue their campaign against a wind turbine at Knock Iveagh outside Rathfriland.
Experts believe that Knock Iveagh was the place where local ‘kings’ we re inaugurated and was considered a ‘sacred hill’. It is also the setting for a nationally important Neolithic burial cairn more than 5000 years old, which is a scheduled monument.
In a letter sent to the Annaclone Historical Society, Lord Iveagh denounced the “defacement of Knock Iveagh” and called on the council to “urgently review the planning and development on this historic hill which is the acknowledged ancestral homeland of the Magennis Chiefs and Viscounts of Iveagh”.
Planners ‘streamlined’ the application for the wind turbine at Knock Iveagh in 2013 and archaeologists from the Historic Environment Division were not consulted.
Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough (ABC) Council says it is still considering revoking planning permission, however the turbine is due to become active within the next few days.
The wind turbine was given planning permission following what is now recognised as a flawed planning process. Some locals were angry when ABC Council allowed a ‘Stop Notice’ preventing works at the site to expire without further action despite a number of ongoing planning enforcement issues.
The developer, Ayr Power, then worked through the night to erect the wind turbine using an access road which does not have planning permission.
Before Christmas the Friends of Knock Iveagh were advised that ABC Council was ‘considering’ the legal status of earthing trenching, along with a request from the Friends that works be halted until all outstanding issues had been resolved.
However, over the holiday period the developer commenced extensive digging works with heavy machinery on all sides of the hill.
No plans for this digging were ever submitted or approved, and no aerial or geophysical surveys were undertaken to identify potential archaeology in advance.
A spokesman for the Friends group said: “It has been frustrating and heartbreaking to look on as Knock Iveagh has been damaged in this way.
“It appears that the developer has felt confident to continue the works, despite numerous planning irregularities and enforcement cases at the site. Additional electrical buildings have been identified for which no plans were submitted, developers have erected a different model of turbine to the one they have permission for, and they have dug all over the historic hillside without consultation.
“ABC Council say they are considering revoking the planning permission, but despite this they have permitted the developer to apply for retrospective planning permission for an access road.
“This appears to be ‘project splitting’, where a large piece of development is split up into smaller pieces. This avoids looking at the wider environmental impact of a development.
“Knock Iveagh is of enormous cultural and archaeological importance, and should therefore receive the highest possible protection under environmental legislation, however this does not appear to have happened. We want to know why? “We urge the public to take this opportunity to have their voice heard on the wider development at Knock Iveagh by objecting to the retrospective planning application for an access road (ref: LA08/2017/1734/F) through ABC council’s planning office.” The Historic Environment Division (Dept of Communities) has responded to the retrospective application for an access road expressing concern about the “serious adverse visual impact on the integrity of the monument’s setting”.
The Friends of Knock Iveagh say that: “Despite the fact that this development has been allowed to progress and the turbine will soon be switched on, we will continue to seek justice on behalf of the people of Iveagh.
“We feel we have no option now but to ask the Department of Infrastructure, the body who oversee planning and development in Northern Ireland, to intervene.
The Friends of Knock Iveagh are as resolute as ever and we firmly believe that the only right and lawful thing to do is to remove the turbine and its associated works, and to restore Knock Iveagh to its former glory.
“Never before in its extensive history has this hillside come under such a threat, and never before have the people of this region been denied access to Knock Iveagh, a place which for millennia represented the seat of regional power and pride.”
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