Angler’s legal challenge to tourism plan

Dean Blackwood
Dean Blackwood

Approval given for a new fishing tourism facility near Londonderry was unlawful, an environmental campaigner claimed in the High Court yesterday.

Dean Blackwood argued that the decision to give the go-ahead for six cottage-style apartments and a manager’s dwelling along the River Faughan was based on factual errors.

Development authorised by the city’s council 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.

He is taking legal action amid concerns the scheme could have a significant impact on a stretch of water afforded the highest environmental protection in Europe.

Under the Habitats Directive it has been designated special conversation status for salmon, otters and oak woodland.

Mounting the case as a personal litigant, he has claimed a failure to carry out proper assessments before granting planning permission.

He also alleges that the impact of the proposed development on a protected species of bats was not considered.

As the judicial review challenge got under way, Mr Blackwood argued: “The impugned decision has been characterised by errors of law, and objectively verifiable errors of fact that have a material bearing on the decision making process.”

According to the campaigner, there was also an “after the event rationalisation” on issues which should have been brought before the council’s planning committee.

The case being heard by Mr Justice McCloskey is expected to last for two days before judgment is reserved.