Campaigner loses legal challenge to fishing tourism facility

Environmental campaigner Dean Blackwood. Picture: Press Eye
Environmental campaigner Dean Blackwood. Picture: Press Eye

An environmental campaigner has lost a legal challenge to the planned building of a new fishing tourism facility near Londonderry.

Dean Blackwood issued proceedings against the decision to approve six cottage-style apartments and a manager’s dwelling along the River Faughan.

But a High Court judge rejected claims the development authorised by the city’s council breached Habitats regulations and other grounds advanced.

Mr Justice McCloskey ruled: “The application for judicial review is dismissed.”

Planning permission granted in January also includes landscape works at the site opposite Lismacarrol and Glenshane Roads in Crossballycormick.

Mr Blackwood is the voluntary chair and director of the River Faughan Anglers Ltd, a cross-community, not for profit organisation set up to manage fishing rights.

A retired chartered town planner, he took the case as a personal litigant.

He believes the scheme could have a significant impact on a stretch of water afforded the highest environmental protection in Europe.

It has been designated special conversation status for salmon, otters and oak woodland, he said.

Mr Blackwood claimed a failure to carry out proper assessments before granting planning permission, and that the impact of the proposed development on a protected species of bats was not considered.

He contended that the decision was characterised by errors of law and fact which impacted on the process.

Delivering judgment, Mr Justice McCloskey praised the “articulate and measured terms” in which Mr Blackwood presented his case.

The challenge raised several issues of sufficient gravity and substance to warrant careful examination, he pointed out.

Ultimately, however, the alleged breaches of Habitats and Environmental Impact Assessment regulations were rejected, along with claims that previous, lapsed grants of planning permission had been wrongly taken into account.

According to the judge, some criticisms made by the campaigner were “largely characterised by bare assertion and mere subjective disagreement”.

Mr Blackwood will now be given time to consider whether he wants to appeal the ruling.