Appeals Court Reaches Decision on Lough Neagh Sand Dredging

Friends of the Earth has welcomed last week’s Northern Ireland Court of Appeal decision that the government acted unlawfully by not stopping the dredging at Lough Neagh, one of Europe’s most important wetlands.

The environmental campaign group brought the legal challenge over the Northern Ireland government’s failure to stop sand extraction from Lough Neagh, which has been taking place without planning permission and other authorizations.

According to the Friends of the Earth, up to two million tons of sand is suction dredged from the bed of the Lough every year. This is the biggest unauthorized development in the history of Northern Ireland.

Commenting on the decision, Friends of the Earth Northern Ireland Director, James Orr said: “This vitally important wildlife site is supposed to be protected under local and international law – it’s a scandal that the Northern Ireland government has taken so long to understand its legal obligations.

This ruling by the highest court in Northern Ireland sends a powerful signal to the government to take our environment seriously, and to safeguard precious natural jewels like Lough Neagh.

Craig Bennett, Chief Executive of Friends of the Earth, England, Wales and Northern Ireland: “This decision will be crucially important for the protection of all our precious nature areas. It also underlines the need for a better approach in the future.”

According to him, the case was won because of EU law and demonstrates how vital these are in protecting the environment.