Earl of Shaftesbury estate responds to Lough rights question

Dear Sir,

Following recent debates, we wish on behalf of the Shaftesbury Estate and its Trustees, to clarify some of the points raised. In order to provide some transparency around what the Shaftesbury Estate has responsibility for, we should like to highlight the following:

· The Estate has no plans to sell the Lough, but that doesn’t mean that if the Assembly asked to buy it that the answer would definitely be no. The Estate wishes to do what is right for the people of the area and to take their opinions into account.

· The Estate has never had any control or rights over the water.  Even if the Estate did sell the bed and soil of the Lough, no-one, regardless of who the new owner might be, could EVER charge for the removal of water, for storing water, or for discharging water into the Lough.

· For several years the Estate has been selling pieces of the foreshore (excluding mineral and wildfowling rights), for a nominal amount, to those who have a legitimate claim to the land, for example where a resident has a garden which leads directly onto the foreshore.  The Estate intends to continue to do this.

· There still appears to be some confusion about what the Estate actually owns.  It is limited to the bed and soil of the Lough along with any mineral and wildfowling rights.  All the fishing rights have been leased to others for many years and these attract a small annual rent.  The Estate does not own any part of the access roads to the Lough.

· Many of the issues raised around water quality, navigation difficulties and planning issues on the land surrounding the Lough, are already within the remit of government and completely outside the control of the Estate and trustees.

· Over the years, the Estate has tried to accommodate all requests made for items to be placed on the bed of the Lough and since the Lough became the responsibility of the present Earl, the Estate is not aware of any applications, which have the proper planning approvals in place, being refused.

· The Estate is very happy for Government departments to dredge river mouths, quays etc for navigational and flood prevention purposes and, contrary to popular belief, does not make any charge for this.  The same principle applies to loughshore residents, who need to clear jetties for their own private use.

Over the last number of months the Estate has made strenuous efforts to get in touch with as many people as possible such as councils, politicians, Lough users and other interested parties.  During these meetings stakeholders have had the opportunity to discuss what they see as the current problems, how any plans or wishes are being hampered and also what they envisage as the future for the Lough.

The Estate is anxious to work with all those who have an interest in the development of Lough Neagh to ensure that the best possible outcome is reached for the hundreds of people who depend on it for their livelihoods, use it for recreation purposes or who live along its shore.  The Estate fully appreciates its importance and is committed to trying to assist in its proper development as an asset for Northern Ireland.

Yours sincerely,

The Shaftesbury Estate of Lough Neagh Ltd