Northern Ireland news

Court hears claims otter activity at Craigavon lake could be harmed by building £45m Southern Regional College

The otter is a European protected species

OTTER activity at a Co Armagh lake could be harmed by building a new £45 million college campus on its shoreline, the High Court has heard.

Lawyers for a grandmother who lives close to the parkland site claimed it is currently used by the aquatic mammals which are a European protected species.

Clare McCann (65), represented by solicitor Claire McKeegan of Phoenix Law, is challenging a decision to grant planning permission for the new Southern Regional College at the south lake in Craigavon.

Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council gave the project the green light in January last year.

Opponents claim it will reduce green space in a public park and lead to an annual influx of thousands of students.

Mrs McCann is seeking a judicial review amid concerns about the impact on wildlife and residents.

Her legal team contend that the planning approval was irrational and breached legal requirements.

They also allege that the council failed to assess the impact on protected species, including otters, and did not carry out the proper habitats regulations assessment.

Based on local knowledge of otter activity in the area, they insisted that it was wrong to conclude the development will not cause harm.

Opening proceedings for Mrs McCann, barrister David Scoffield QC said his client now brings her grandchildren to the park she has enjoyed for decades.

"It has a number of special memories for her, it's an important feature in her life," he said.

"She enjoys the water and wildlife which is there, she is aware of otters in the lake."

In a case set to last for three days, Mr Justice Huddleston will also hear challenges to the planning policy and alleged breach of statutory duty.

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