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Knock Iveagh: Stormont should pay for ancient burial site error  

Credit:  By Conor Macauley, BBC NI Agriculture & Environment Correspondent | BBC News | 7 October 2020 | www.bbc.co.uk ~~

An executive department should pick up the bill for a planning bungle that saw a wind turbine erected at a protected ancient burial site, the Northern Ireland Assembly has been told.

The controversial case of the 5,000-year-old burial cairn at Knock Iveagh, outside Rathfriland, County Down, was addressed in a Stormont debate.

The protected monument dates back to the Neolithic period.

It was also an inauguration site for Irish kings.

It had been listed for protection since 1996, but in 2013 planning permission was approved for a wind turbine close to the summit and it was erected four years later.

Archaeology experts were not consulted prior to approval as they should have been.

A government advisory body on monuments later recommended that permission be revoked.

The mistake was made when planning was the job of the former Department of the Environment.

But with the transfer of planning powers to councils, it has become an issue for Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Council.

It is still wrestling with whether to order the removal of the turbine.

That is likely to lead to a compensation claim from the developer that could run to hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Ulster Unionist Assembly Member (MLA) Doug Beattie, who secured the debate, said the most important thing now was to “fix what went wrong” to prevent the continued impact on a regionally important heritage site.

He said the Department for Communities, which has responsibility for protected monuments, should offer to pay any compensation to prevent the bill falling on council ratepayers.

Mr Beattie said the planning process had failed Knock Iveagh “and failed it seriously”.

He said there had been a history of planning mistakes which had led to other ancient sites being destroyed.

Several South Down MLAs spoke in support of the campaign to have the turbine removed and Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilín promised to visit the site to see for herself.

She said she had no powers to revoke permission, that it was a matter for the council but that her officials would continue to monitor the protected site.

Source:  By Conor Macauley, BBC NI Agriculture & Environment Correspondent | BBC News | 7 October 2020 | www.bbc.co.uk

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