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Solidarity camp vow to fight on

THE residents of the Rossport Solidarity Camp (pictured) have said they will remain in the local area. The group have also stated ‘we will live on’ despite a court order stating that the camp at Glengad is an ‘unauthorised development’ and must be removed from the land before January 1, 2008.At yesterday’s (Monday) sitting of Castlebar Circuit Court, Judge Harvey Kenny directed that the residents cease the unauthorised camping and habitation of the site, situated on land which is part of a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), known as the Glenamoy Bog Complex. While he acknowledged that the environmental concerns of the defendants was admirable and they had made ‘conscientious efforts’ to protect the sand dunes, there was still potential for damage to be caused and the defendants had not applied for planning permission for the camp.Mr Eoin Ó Leidhin, a spokesperson for the camp, said the group had expected the court decision but they were ‘not disillusioned’. He added that they were humbled by the support they had received from residents in the locality and said that the group would meet in the next few days to decide if they will appeal the decision.“We had expected this result but we are not too disillusioned and the Rossport Solidarity Camp will live on. We have made alternative accommodation arrangements and are staying in a house given to us by a local resident. We have been offered local fields and sites for camping and it is really humbling to receive the support we are getting. We will be having a day of action on September 14 and we are hoping people will show up and support the campaign because there is no problem with accommodation,” he said.The Rossport Solidarity Camp was constructed 18 months ago and last July Mayo County Council brought legal proceedings against the residents of the camp seeking its removal under Section 160 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 to cease what it terms the ‘unauthorised use and development’ of the land. They also cited that irreplaceable damage was being caused to a SAC by the presence of the camp.An interim injunction restraining camping and habitation of the land was obtained by solicitors acting on behalf of Mayo County Council at Castlebar District Court last July, and last month Judge Kenny adjourned the hearing on the grounds that only two members were allowed to stay at the camp.At yesterday’s hearing, Mr John Kiely, BL for Mayo County Council [Instructed by Mr Michael Browne] read from the affidavit of Mr Leslie McNicholas, an engineer with Mayo County Council’s Planning Enforcement Unit who had visited the camp. He stated that part of the path to the camp was made from some stones and cement and the large number of people using the camp was causing irreplaceable damage to the dune eco system. He said the toilet and effluent arrangements did not meet minimum standards and were not adequate for large amounts of people.He also read a statement from Ms Karen Gaynor of the National Parks and Wildlife Service which stated that while considerable efforts had been made to mitigate against the negative environmental impacts caused by the camp, she estimated that it would take as long as 10-15 years for the site to recover fully.Ms Jennifer Higgins, BL for two of the defendants, Mr Bob Kavanagh and Mr Eoin Ó Leidhin, [instructed by Ms Lorraine Gannon], said that the owner of the land had given permission to the residents to use the land. She also said that Ms Gaynor’s allegation that the land had a poor rate of recovery was untrue because there was evidence of a piece of land showing signs of recovery in a place where a structure was removed a year ago. Ms Higgins asked for the order to be left to stand until they had an opportunity to apply for planning permission.A third defendant, Mr Niall Harnett, said that a memo disclosed under discovery revealed that Mayo County Council were advised that they should seek a Circuit Court Injunction as far back as January 2007, at which stage he claimed environmental reports had been favourable to the camp. He added that the camp does not fall within the definition of Section three of the Planning and Development Act, and the camp must be defined within its political, environmental and constitutional context.Judge Kenny said that the camp had the potential to damage the land located in a SAC and the unauthorised development must be removed. He suggested to the Council that they might not pursue costs in the matter but would not make it part of the order. However, he granted a stay in the event of an appeal and after initially ordering the removal of the development before October 1, he put back the date until January 1, to ensure the structures were removed without causing damage to the land.

Posted Date: 
5 September 2007 - 7:21pm