An on-line petition set up to oppose plans to site a quarry near the foot of Slieve Gallion, outside Desertmartin, is growing at a rate of 500 signatures a day.
People living in the Iniscarn and Crocknamohill areas are said to be “up in arms” at proposals to extract sand and gravel from the lands.
A public meeting is scheduled to take place tonight (Thursday) in The Terrace Hotel, Magherafelt, at 6pm during which a presentation will be made on behalf of the developers. It is understood that all householders in the area have received letters inviting them to attend the meeting.
In the letter, the developers point out the proposed quarry will provide employment and boost economic activity. They also stress that a number of ‘technical studies’ are currently being undertaken by specialists to assess the impacts of the proposal.
Locally born entrepreneur Henry Joseph-Grant, who was brought up in the area, told the Mail that he was contacted by a number of local people who were alarmed at the proposals and asked him to help spread awareness, he decided to start the petition at change.org to give the local community a voice.
He urged residents to go along to tonight’s meeting. “We are living in a democracy and it is important that they go along to hear the developers’ plans and also have their voices heard” he said.
“This is a beautiful part of the Sperrins an area of outstanding natural beauty and I feel that we need to do everything in our power to protect it because once we lose it it’s gone forever.”
Mr Joseph-Grant spent part of his childhood in the area before leaving for London.
Although he now travels the world extensively, he admits to having a strong emotional attachment to this part of south Derry and visits his family and friends who still live in the surrounding area.
“I left as a child, but my heart never left at all” he said.
It is understood that householders are concerned about potential damage to the environment, noise pollution, health issues and damage to local roads - particularly following the recent collapse of the bridge at Iniscarn in the recent floods.
Residents will present the petition to Mid Ulster District Council and to the Northern Ireland Environmental Agency.