New Mid-Ulster council plunges into planning controversy

One of the first planning decisions made by the new Mid-Ulster council has been met with dismay and anger by a group of Coalisland residents.

The controversial proposal passed last week by the council’s planning committee gives DMAC Engineering permission to construct a new purpose built factory at Annagher Road in a £2.8m investment, which is expected to create up to 80 new jobs.

Jimmy Hughes on his land which borders the engineering site

Jimmy Hughes on his land which borders the engineering site

However, residents living near the site have been fighting a long-running battle to have a set of sheds erected by the company without planning approval nine years ago removed.

They say the new factory would adversely affect the landscape, create noise, air and water pollution, and reduce the value of their homes.

National wildlife groups have joined forces with the group which numbers eighteen households.

The Ulster Wildlife Trust has claimed that contamination from sand-blasting workshops at the former sandpit site would be ‘disastrous’ for ‘wildlife and biodiversity’ and the ‘health of local residents’.

The area, which had 24 Sandmartin nesting sites, had been designated a site of Local Nature Conservation Importance in the 2010 Dungannon and South Tyrone Area Plan.

A wildlife pond which was contaminated by an oil spill contained newts, frogs and fish.

The organisation has opposed the new application for a factory at the site.

The RSPB has also warned that any future development would damage the local environment.

Resident Jimmy Hughes, who says that the rates agency have devalued his property by £15,000 because of the factory, accused the planning committee of not delivering justice for residents.

“We are devastated by the decision and feel let down by local politicians.

“The company has been operating unauthorised workshops at the site for the past nine years, and a demolition order had been ordered in 2009 by the planning office.

“However, the company has lodged appeal after appeal until they have finally got their way.

“This decision has come as a shock to us.

“We are woken at dawn every morning with the sound of machinery at the site, and clouds of dust and paint fumes waft by our house.”

Mr Hughes claims he was given no notification of the planning meeting and found out by chance.

“Our concern is that we have not been given a level playing field in this process. The applicant has been allowed to appeal decisions that have not gone his way, while we have been informed that we cannot appeal this decision in any way.

“We weren’t even given the opportunity of a site meeting to air our concerns.

“What kind of justice or equality is that for residents?”