Pump Street rumblings resurface after three years
RUMBLINGS about tunnelling under Pump Street in the centre of Londonderry UK City of Culture 2013 have resurfaced almost three years after a local man was warned DIY excavations could precipitate collapse, explosion or damage to services.
Environment Minister Alex Attwood said his staff will expedite a fresh investigation as a matter of urgency to determine if any unauthorised tunnelling has taken place.
Over three years ago a number of local stakeholders raised concerns after amateur archaeologists excavated what they believed to be ancient underground tunnels in the city centre.
They claimed to have uncovered an underground network of 129 yards of red-brick and ancient stone tunnels which they thought could pre-date the Siege.
Mr Attwood said this resulted in a number of interested parties, including the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), PSNI, Roads Service, the Dean of the Cathedral and Derry City Council, expressing concern.
He stated: “After this activity was first reported in 2009, NIEA Built Heritage staff officers contacted the person engaged in this tunnelling and sent him two letters expressing their serious concerns about the potential for collapse, explosion or damage to services, such as electricity supply.”
The excavator was asked to stop. All relevant agencies were also made aware of the potential dangers.
The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) officials said they believed the tunnel was a late 18th or 19th century drain of little archaeological value and they did not believe it fell within their remit to take matters further.
But after a three year hiatus rumblings from underground have resurfaced.
Said Mr Attwood: “I can report that the Derry Area Planning Office, who closed an enforcement investigation into this case in March 2010, has recently received additional information and reports of work.
“My staff in the Derry Area Office has informed me that they will expedite a fresh investigation as a matter of urgency to determine if any unauthorised tunnelling has taken place.
“If a breach of planning control is identified, I have instructed that appropriate enforcement should be taken to remedy the breach as a matter of urgency.”
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Friday 24 May 2013
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