Northern Ireland news

Concerns raised about Lough Neagh shed order

Lough Neagh fisherman Martin O'Neill repairing nets in his Ardboe shed, which a local council has ordered to be demolish. Picture by Cliff Donaldson.
Connla Young

A Lough Neagh fisherman has claimed he will be unable to “survive” after planners ordered him to knock down an unauthorised boatshed.

Martin O'Neill from Ardboe in Co Tyrone voiced his frustration ahead of a meeting of Mid Ulster District Council on Tuesday.

Planners have recommended that a retrospective application for the shed, built on the shores of Lough Neagh without permission, should be refused.

An enforcement notice has already been issued ordering the father-of-two to remove the shed, which was build several years months ago.

Mr O'Neill comes from a fishing background and believes that his case highlights the lack of support given to the ancient industry.

He said the shed is used to store fishing boats and equipment, including working nets.

A large number of people living around Lough Neagh earn a living from fishing.

The methods used date back centuries and the tradition tends to be handed down father to son.

Planners say that complaints have been received alleging that Mr O'Neill's shed is used for servicing lorries - a claim he denies.

Concerns have also been raised about its size, appearance and that it “dominates” an adjacent dwelling.

The 45-year-old has received backing from SDLP assembly member Patsy McGlone.

The case was due before council in April but was deferred until next week.

A section in the new Mid Ulster local development plan, which is currently out to consultation, deals with some of the issues facing Lough Neagh fishermen but planners say that due to objections they “cannot be given any determining weight at this time”.

They also admit that “there are currently no policies that support the development”.

Mr O'Neill said he wants to continue earning a living from fishing after having previously driven a lorry.

“If you take it down (the shed) you might as well take my house down up the road, I can't survive,” he said.

“It's a must if you want to stay at the fishing.

“I am from a fishing background and I want to keep the tradition going.

“The way it is going you could make a bit of a living if you had peace and quiet.”

Mr O'Neill, who recently buried his father and whose mother is ill, said the council action has placed him under additional stress.

“I can't take much more to tell you the truth,” he said.

Local MLA Patsy McGlone met with senior planners at Mid Ulster to discuss the matter.

“If the council is saying that it can't find a way forward to approve a shed for a fisherman at Lough Neagh there is something very strange,” he said.

Planning expert Chris Cassidy said that a policy exists for people who want to house a pleasure craft “but for the man working all his life at fishing, there's no policy.

“That needs to be rectified.”

A spokesman for the council said it “recognises that the commercial fishing industry on Lough Neagh has a long established tradition within the lough shore communities”.

“In this context, within the draft Local Development Plan 2030 policy proposals have been included to allow buildings to be located in an identified Policy Area for holders of commercial fishing licences,” she said.

She added that the “draft local development plan proposes a new exception to allow for commercial fishing licence holders to build homes within the identified policy area”.

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