Monday 26 November 2007

Marchers protest at airport beach plan

Over 200 people donned their waterproofs and walked across Dorrin's Strand to Coney island in Sligo Bay at low tide yesterday in protest at controversial plans to extend the airport across the beach.

The walk is just the first step in the campaign by a local environmental group to prevent the extension of the runway at Sligo Airport across Dorrin's Strand.

They say the expansion will block access, wipe out a thriving shellfish industry and do untold environmental damage.

The planning application for the development is currently with Sligo County Council which has sought further information.

"We will wait the outcome of that application and depending on what that is, our next step will be An Bord Pleanala and then Europe," said a member of the Dorrin's and Cummeen Strand Conservation Group, Frank Carter.

He pointed out that the strand is a special protected area, subject to European legislation, with its north east facing orientation making it a safe habitat for wintering Brent geese.

The protesters took the traditional "short strand" route, which has been used for hundreds of years to gain access to the popular island.

The group claims that the proposed works associated with the runway extension would render Dorrin's strand impassable and derelict, while also seriously threatening the road to Coney Island.


"The proposal to redirect the drainage channel, by building a nine hundred metre long stone channel, reinforced by rock armour, together with the building of an enormous stone platform across half of the strand, and navigation lights over the remainder, would render Dorrin's Strand a no-go area for travellers to and from Coney Island and for walkers, bird watchers, fishermen and the many families who enjoy safe swimming there," he said.

He added that the freedom to walk around the peninsula was one which has been taken for granted for so long that most people considered it a civil right.

"If the principle of building airports on beaches is to be established in Sligo, what a proud record we will have to hand on to our grandchildren," he said.

Sligo County Council has sought further information on the planning application by the board of Sligo Airport to extend the runway almost 260 metres over Dorrin's Strand.

The board claims that the extension is necessary to comply with new aviation standards and without it, there is no commercial future for the airport.

Anita Guidera
Irish Independent

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