Mayo County Council has initiated legal action against the Rossport solidarity camp which was established over two years ago to support opponents of the Corrib gas project.
An interim order against several named members of the camp was obtained by the local authority on Friday night under section 160 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, on the basis that the camp is "unauthorised".
A Mayo County Council spokesman said the action was being taken after a "number" of complaints had been received, including one from the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).
The spokesman said the NPWS was concerned about the impact of the camp on the sensitive dune system at Glengad.
In Castlebar Circuit Court this morning Judge Harvey Kenny said the Court will make a decision next week on an application for an interlocutory injunction seeking the closure of the Rossport solidarity camp which houses activists opposed to the Corrib gas project.
John Kiely BL applied for the injunction on the grounds that the camp was "unauthorised" as no planning permission had been sought or received for it and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) was concerned about the impact of the camp on an ecologically sensitive sand dune system.
The application for the interlocutory injunction was made yesterday against four named defendants: Mark Robinson, Eoin Ó Leidhin, Bob Kavanagh and Niall Harnett.
Mr Harnett told Judge Harvey Kenny they understood they had implicit authorisation and explicit approval from the Rural Environmental Protection Scheme (REPS) and the NPWS.
They were never informed that the camp was considered to be an unauthorised development and no warning letter was issued.
The camp was established in June 2005 in support of the families of the five men for 94 days over their opposition to the Corrib gas pipeline.
Initially based at Rossport, the camp was then moved close to the foreshore at Glengad about 18 months ago. The camp is constructed of recycled material, uses composting for waste and solar panels provide power. A camp spokesman told The Irish Times that it had built up a very good relationship with the NPWS and with locals.
NPWS staff had visited it on a number of occasions and given advice on constructing pathways and minimising environmental impact on the machair dune system, he said.
John Monaghan of the Shell to Sea campaign said he was puzzled by Mayo County Council's action. "The area is sensitive, but we don't see why the camp should be moved when a destructive project involving a high pressure pipeline can run through," Mr Monaghan said.
"The camp members have always been more responsible that the Corrib gas developers." Shell E&P Ireland said that it had no comment as the issue was one for Mayo County Council.
Mr Kiely denied that the council was "aggressive", saying that it was quite entitled to act under Section 160 of the Planning Act 2000. on the grounds that the development was unauthorised and irreparable damage was being caused to the local environment.
As regards the residents of the camp, he said "these people may have a genuine protest, but they stand before the court in no different light to anyone who carries out an unauthorised development".
The judge said that he was conscious that there was an unauthorised structure at the camp but he explained that he still believed that the defendants were entitled to consult with their lawyers but "not for any great length of time".
He explained that he would make his decision on Tuesday, July 31st.
In the meantime, the interim order would remain in place, with the local authority giving an undertaking that it would not be enforced before the court hearing.
Tom Shiel & Lorna Siggins
© 2007 The Irish Times [Edited]