Council claims quarry ‘four times size it should be’

 A Falcarragh quarry could be closed down over allegations it is operating at four times the size it should be.

Sean McGee of Niamar Property Ltd will find out on Wednesday if he has to shut the business he has run for almost 30 years.

Donegal County Council served an enforcement notice on Mr McGee last year in relation to the quarry at Moyra, Glebe.


According to the local authority the business is in breach of planning regulations in that it has quadrupled in size from what was initially applied for.

As well as the scale of the operation, the council says it has concerns over the potential harm being caused to the local environment, adjoining water courses and to special areas of conservation included in the Natura 2000 network.

This is denied by the defendant and his agent, architect Michael Friel, who say that all documentation is in place and open to inspection.

During a contest at Letterkenny District Court this week Donegal County Council’s executive planner Martin McDermott gave evidence that as far back as 2012 the planning authority approached the quarry operator to advise that the permission he had could no longer be relied upon. Mr McGee was told at that point that he should seek substitute consent.

But no further action was taken until last year when a review of all quarries in the county was commenced. The review was launched shortly after Mr McDermott was appointed to the role of quarry compliance officer.

The court heard that when planning permission was granted for the Falcarragh development in 1996, it was for 0.979 hectares within the overall land holding.

One of the allegations is that it has since grown far beyond that.


“The quarry that currently exists would be in excess of four times that area,” Mr McDermott said.

Solicitor Patsy Gallagher, representing Sean McGee and Niamar Property Ltd, asked why there was a sudden urgency in terms of enforcement when the quarry had been operating unhindered for decades.

“This quarry has been quarrying since 1996 within that planning permission until the enforcement notice was served in April last year. Why is there an urgency now when there was none in 2000, 2010, 2012, even 2015 and 2016,” Mr Gallagher asked.

“The reason for the urgency is that we have an unauthorised quarry operating without the benefit of planning permission,” Mr McDermott replied.

“The planning authority advised ten or eleven years earlier that the permission was not safe and it required substitute consent, ie retention from An Bord Pleanála.”

Patsy Gallagher pressed though the fact that enforcement action only began last year.

“The council did nothing after the inspection in 2012. There was no action, there was no urgency. So the parties kept on quarrying believing everything was okay.”

“The party appears to have continued quarrying, that is correct,” said the council’s compliance officer.

Judge Éiteáin Cunningham will deliver her verdict on Wednesday morning.

Architect Michael Friel represents over a dozen quarry operators in Donegal. From the witness box he said in his opinion the planning permission in place was valid and legal.

“They just seem intent on achieving this enforcement notice that this quarry just stop,” he said.

“My client has been operating this quarry for over 27 years, he had a brother killed in the quarry in 1999. It is his livelihood, it means a lot to him and I just don’t think the council can come after working in the business for 27 years and say there is an enforcement notice, you must cease immediately. There has to be more to it than that.”

Mr Friel argued that the quarry continues to operate within the original boundaries laid out in 1996.

“We have it pinned, pegged on site, anyone is welcome to look at it.”

But this was refuted by solicitor for Donegal County Council, Kevin McElhinney.

“If I bring you to the application form lodged by James McGee, who was the beneficiary of this planning permission, he has in his application the area of the site being quarried is 0.979 hectares. You have heard the evidence that it is now four hectares.”

“I don’t agree with that,” said Michael Friel.

The architect added that Sean McGee was willing to work with Donegal County Council on finding a resolution to the dispute.

“Give him a chance. A hard working guy in the quarry for 27 years making a living. Give him a chance to work with Donegal County Council on this matter.”

Following further lengthy legal argument Judge Éiteáin Cunningham said she would need time to consider all submissions made to the court.

She adjourned the matter until November 16 when she will deliver her verdict.

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