Wednesday 14 November 2007

Council blow to Culleenamore Strand protesters

BUILDING work to construct a fence on land at Culleenamore Strand will go ahead, Director of Services Declan Breen told yesterday’s (Monday) meeting of Sligo County Council. Mr Breen said the council’s legal adviser had examined maps from the 1830s and had determined that they failed to substantiate the case that a public right of way existed.

He said the council bought the strip of land from a private landowner in 2005 to ensure the Ballisodare Bay beach remained open to the public. He added that the council had a contractual agreement to build the fence between its land, and that of the private landowner, and he proposed to go ahead with construction. He said the matter was an executive function, but he had held off with the works until he gave his report to the full council to debate.

He told councillors the landowner had agreed to sell an additional, small piece of land to the council. He said this would give safer and easier access to people going onto the beach. He added that the landowner had been very helpful and had facilitated negotiations.

Councillor Declan Bree called on the council to get a second legal opinion. "Given the fact that the council's legal adviser was involved in the earlier agreement regarding the erection of the proposed fence it would appear to me a second opinion is required," he said.

He said a local residents group had pointed out that they had supplied extensive evidence to council officials showing the long-standing existence of a public right of way. This included statements from locals, maps and copies of their legal argument.

"The residents circulated maps indicating that if the council proceed with the fencing they would be fencing off a right of way," he said. Cllr Albert Higgins said what people had to remember is that they were talking about 70 to 80 by 20 yards of land. He also said one end of it was enclosed by a locked gate.

"It is a red herring that has been dragged out for the last 12 months," he said. He said that at no stage was the beach going to be blocked off. Cllr Imelda Henry was pleased to hear that extra land was acquired. "This has gone on for long enough. We need to put an end to it here," she said.

Cllr Jimmy McGarry said it was his understanding that an injunction would be lodged by the third party group if the fence was built by the council. "Let them," was the response from councillors.

Niamh Mullen
Sligo Weekender

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