It’s still not a smoking gun, but the Belfast Telegraph’s David Gordon has seen the Department of the Environment’s file on the controversial planning application by Seymour Sweeney for a development at the Giants’ Causeway and he’s picked out one document in particular from that file – the views of the Department’s Environment and Heritage Service on Mr Sweeney’s planning application in December 2002.
Written by Dr John Faulkner, EHS director of Natural Heritage, the letter stated: “EHS has major concerns in relation to this proposal and recommends that planning permission be refused.”
Dr Faulkner proposed a rejection on the grounds that Mr Sweeney’s blueprint would breach three separate policies relating to the protection of the Causeway’s setting.
He voiced particular concern that the development would be in addition to existing visitor buildings.
“The effect of this proposal would therefore be to expand significantly the developed area at the Causeway Head,” Dr Faulkner stated.
“EHS considers that this would have a major adverse impact on the landscape character and quality of the approach to the world heritage site.
“As a consequence, the visitor experience to this outstanding natural phenomenon would be markedly devalued.”
The Belfast Telegraph report also points out that
Papers in the file also indicate that Planning Service officials were working towards a refusal recommendation in recent years.
Draft reasons for rejection were drawn up, although the option of a public inquiry was also floated at one point.
However, the final advice given to Mrs Foster by top officials in the Planning Service’s planning management board remains unknown at present.
The Minister recently stated that, after receiving a report from the Planning Service, she was “of a mind to approve” the application.
Some deft work with a Freedom of Information request too.
Documentation submitted as part of this application has been released by HLF [Heritage Lottery Fund] to this newspaper under the freedom of information act. HLF stated that the application was made in the second half of 2002 and turned down the following year.
The documentation reveals that Dr Paisley was named in Mr Sweeney’s grant application as one of three people who would “shortly be trustees” of the trust.
I’ll just repeat the points I made in this comments zone previously
the DUP’s argument [is] that government should only intervene in such a project when the market fails. A perfectly plausible small-government argument to explain why they would support a private development for the Causeway Visitors’ Centre.
The problem for the DUP however, given their obvious familiarity, is that the only private development currently proposed is Seymour Sweeney’s.
Even that, in itself, isn’t necessarily an insurmountable problem..
Apart from the fact that UNESCO seem to have formed the view that that particular private development would interfere with the World Heritage Status of the Giants’ Causeway.
And that, in its current form, it appears to run foul of previous decisions by government about the publicly funded project for a Causeway Visitors’ Centre.