The deputy chief commissioner of Northern Ireland’s Planning Appeals Commission has decided to allow companies ‘illegally’ extracting sand from the bed of Lough Neagh almost a year’s extension for the required reports.
This means the five companies sucking up sand from the bed of the protected site can continue to work despite concerns about the environmental impact of the work.
Department of the Environment Minister Mark H Durkan, retains the power to issue an immediate stop notice, but chooses not to use it.
Friends of the Earth NI have taken legal action against DOE over the continued extraction while the Green Party has also raised concerns.
While the Shaftesbury Estate and companies removing the sand have said the dredging is not damaging the ecology of the lough.
It said on the PAC website today: “An enforcement notice for this appeal was accompanied by a notice under Regulation 31(2) of the Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2015.
“It stated that the Department had determined that should the recipients appeal against the enforcement notice, they were required to submit copies of an environmental statement (ES) to the Commission.
“The Commission was asked to agree to a request from the Appellant for an extension to the deadline for submitting an environmental statement and has made a ruling to extend until 31st October 2016.”