By Conor Macauley, BBC NI Agriculture & Environment Correspondent | BBC News | www.bbc.co.uk
A Stormont department has refused to intervene in a planning row over a wind turbine erected at a 5,000-year-old protected burial ground.
The Department for Infrastructure was asked to force the removal of the turbine at Knock Iveagh near Rathfriland after a planning mistake.
The request came from a council which had inherited responsibility for the error.
This happened when planning powers were transferred to local government.
Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon District Council feared it would be liable for compensation to the owner of well over a million pounds, with the bill falling on ratepayers.
The department has said it will not intervene and it is up to the council to resolve the issue.
Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has written to the chief executive of the council to say the local authority has both the responsibility and the power to act.
“Having spent some considerable time and resource investigating and assessing this case over a period of three years the council, as the local planning authority for the area, is both best placed to make this decision and is the authority with responsibility to do so,” she said.
“I can see no grounds or basis for which my department would use its powers of enforcement or discontinuance for this case, therefore, I am unable to accede to your request to do so.”
The Friends of Knock Iveagh Group which has campaigned for the removal of the turbine described the outcome as “pathetic”.
It said neither the council nor the department could “turn a blind eye” to the situation that had developed.
The group said: “We suggest they go into a room together, close the door and not come out until they have a solution that rights the wrongs at Knock Iveagh.”
Stone age site
The hill at Knock Iveagh, which is home to a stone-age burial cairn, was an inauguration site for Irish kings and is a protected monument.
A planning mistake meant archaeological experts were not consulted about the turbine application before approval was given.
They later said that had they been, they would have recommended refusal.
The mistake was made at a time when planning was the responsibility of the former Department of the Environment and before the powers were transferred to local councils.
Armagh, Banbridge Craigavon District Council inherited the problem and has struggled for years to deal with it.
The Department for Infrastructure holds some planning powers, but the minister said it was envisaged these would only be used in “exceptional circumstances”.
URL to article: https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2021/01/18/ancient-burial-site-row-not-our-issue-says-infrastructure-department/