ESTUARY CAMPAIGN: PLAYWRIGHT BRIAN Friel, former SDLP leader John Hume and his wife Pat and the North’s Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Michelle Gildernew, have expressed concerns about Donegal County Council’s plans for a sewerage scheme in a scenic area on the shores of Lough Foyle.
These three well-known figures who all live or holiday in the area have joined with local residents involved in the “Campaign for a Clean Estuary”.
The Moville-Greencastle environmental group has challenged Donegal County Council’s determination to secure approval for one particular location for the pumping station and outflow pipe.
The row dates back well over a decade, and in 2005 the local authority received Department of the Environment approval to proceed with the planning stage.
The council said the scheme was required to “remove the existing raw sewage discharges into the Bredagh river and Lough Foyle, to comply with EU Directives and to provide infrastructure for the development of Moville and Greencastle”.
However, the local authority’s preferred location in Carnagarve was not among the seven recommended after a public consultation exercise it undertook. It identified Carnagarve as being suitable, in spite of proximity to a beach and a popular coastal walking route at Lafferty’s Lane.
An Bord Pleanála, which was handling the planning application, held an oral hearing in Redcastle in July 2009. A result is still pending, as the board sought further information and clarification.
As part of its case, Donegal County Council relied on a definition of Lough Foyle as “coastal waters”, rather than “tidal estuary”. Tidal estuaries are subject to stricter EU directives on water quality than coastal waters.
Campaign spokesman Enda Craig said his group discovered the redesignation took place in 1991. “There was no public participation or consultation on this – another example of why the Aarhus convention is so badly needed,” he said.
Following a submission by oceanographer Mike Quinnell, retained by the objectors for the oral hearing, the local authority changed its position on the standard of treatment. An Taisce, believes a new independent outfall modelling study needs to be commissioned, given the trans-boundary nature of the Foyle, its status as a salmonid and shellfish area and its maritime tourism importance.
In a letter to An Bord Pleanála last May, former SDLP leader and MEP John Hume expressed his “total opposition” to the plan, which he described as “shortsighted” and drawn up “without any thought for the damage which may be done in one of the most beautiful areas of Inishowen”.
Mr Hume, who described his house in Lafferty’s Lane as a “lifesaving retreat” during almost 40 years in public life, said he, his wife and family were “deeply distressed that the pumping station and overflow pipe are at the end of our garden”.
Brian Friel has also written to the appeals board, pointing out the negative impact of the location and the fact that “obvious alternatives” were not presented by Donegal County Council.
Meanwhile, Michelle Gildernew has supported calls for an independent investigation into the situation.
In a letter to the campaign dated January 5th, 2011, Ms Gildernew said that the Loughs Agency, which is responsible for both Lough Foyle and Carlingford Lough, has expressed concern about the methodology adopted for hydronamic modelling in Donegal County Council’s environmental impact assessment, and the “potential impact of the proposal on the shellfisheries of Lough Foyle”.