A Government Department has stepped in over the case of plans to charge people to use a Donegal beach.
The Department of Arts, Heritage, Culture and the Gaeltacht is concerned an aspect of planning for the Beach Activity Centre at Aghadachor, near Carrigart may be considered an ‘unauthorised development’.
It comes amid heightened concerns that developers, T&G Properties Dublin, have put a private security firm in charge of a locked gate on the disputed right of way to prevent the public from going onto what has always been treated as a public beach.
The issue of the public being requested to pay for access to ‘a private beach’ was first raised by the Tirconail Tribune.
Locals say they are being told they are trespassing but say the company has no authorisation whatever to do so.
The Aghadachor community said that Donegal County Council officials are denying they have any role in the right of way dispute since it is not a matter for the local authority.
The issue of the right of way was first flagged to the Council in an objection to the original planning application by a local resident on May 18th 2012.
Point 4 of the objection said: “The proposed change of Right of Way to the beach has been substantially changed. There was no consultation on this. The proposed new right of way is less favourable than the existing right of way and, therefore unacceptable. The title deeds to my property indicate quite clearly that the right of way is an intrinsic aspect of local planning.’
The points of objection raised were supported by other sources locally. However we are informed that nobody is clear as to how the council’s planning office dealt with the concerns raised other than a comment that there is no reference to a change of any rights of way on the submitted plans.
The developers responding to council queries on clarification under Manager’s Orders said, “The existing laneway running alongside the easternmost site boundary is to be closed off following completion of the new service road.”
A spokesman at the Department of Arts, Heritage, Culture and the Gaeltacht was responding to queries raised in relation to the Cuan na Ri beach activity centre at the Carrigart location.
The Department is responsible for the National Parks and Wildlife Service has said they have received numerous complaints in relation to the works at Aghadachor beach.
“Following site inspections, we are of the opinion that some of the works to not conform to the method statement, could be considered a breach of Planning Condition No. 2 associated with grant of permission in relation to planning Ref. No. 12/40137 and may be considered as unauthorised development.”
The Department has taken up their concerns with the Council and the Foreshore Unit of the Dept of the Environment.
“It is the opinion of the Dept, that any environmental damage onsite is rectified as soon as possible. We intend to work with Donegal County Council, the Dept of the Environment, Community and Local Government and the developer to achieve this resolution,” says the Dept’s communication.
The local committee at Glenree opposing the closure of the right of way at the site are to meet later this week to consider the situation in the light of this new development.
The group met with Cllrs and officials at Milford on Tuesday amid mounting frustration that the pace of progress is proceeding at a snail’s pace.
A spokesman said that despite two recent meetings at Council level, they believe that more progress should have been achieved and they believe that there is a high degree of ‘feet dragging’ going on.
They told the Tribune at a briefing on Tuesday night that since they first raised their concerns at their protest meeting on Sunday September 29th none of these have been sufficiently addressed with any degree of satisfaction or conclusion.
The development project at Aghadachor has now taken on a number of fronts: the issues of access: issues in relation to compliance with the planning laws and the fact that the public will be asked to pay for access to the beach are now all in the mix.
In his comments about the planning application making the beach site a private concern, David Coyle told the Tribune: “Everyone knows this is patently not true and the facts bear that out. The planning application clearly stated that access to the beach at Aghadachor’s inner beach was by way of a private entrance and the public would have to pay to use it. The system of operation would be a day pass and we were shocked that the Council could allow any company to privatise a public amenity in this way.
“We understand that access to any beach in Ireland is freely available to the people of Ireland. We now need to know how Donegal County Council could change that and nobody in Carrigart was informed,” added Mr.Coyle.
Following the visit of a Sinn Fein delegation to the right of way on Monday, Cllr Mick Quinn and Deputy Mac Lochlainn said: “Having visited the site and seen for ourselves the situation, we are firmly of the view that a right of way has been in place and needs to be reinstated.
“Our beaches are not private property. They are precious amenities that belong to all of our people. We are particularly concerned at reports that the developers have asked local people to leave the beach and have been allowed to carry out such substantial building works right on the beach front.
“Donegal County Council needs to step in and sort this out. It is not good enough for them to wipe their hands of any responsibility for this debacle.
The developers themselves also need to clarify that they will reinstate the public access to Aughadahor beach and not seek to claim this public beach for their private financial gain. We will be seeking that clarification in representations to them this week.”
It is understood that the local authority is engaged in what is termed “Active enforcement proceedings in relation to the site. These actions under the enforcement provisions of the Planning & Devleopment Acts were on foot of inspections carried out by DCC staff in early September shortly after the matter was raised. The Aghadachor
Committee has also been told that the Council is actively pursuing the matter within the requirements of the legislation and that any issues of unauthorised devleopment or non-compliance with the terms of the permissions pertaining to the site will be pursued.Tags: