Ecology Solutions was instructed by the Lough Neagh Sand Traders on the recommendation of Stewart Beattie QC and Gary McGhee of Carson McDowell solicitors to provide expert advice relating to the impacts of sand dredging (by hopper barge) on the flora and fauna of Lough Neagh, which is designated as an SPA, Ramsar site and ASSI (with other designated sites also of relevance). Sand extraction had been occurring for many decades, but in the absence of planning permission and concerns had been specifically raised in relation to potential adverse effects of sand extraction on the qualifying interest features of the SPA / Ramsar site and ASSI. The Department issued an Enforcement Notice (subsequently appealed by the sand traders), with a requirement that extraction ceases whilst planning permission is sought, with proposals to be subject to EIA. Ecology Solutions (led by Tim Goodwin and Karl Goodbun) commenced a series of detailed surveys and assessments to inform the Ecology and Nature Conservation Chapter of an ES together with a supporting Shadow Habitats Regulations Assessment. The issues to be addressed were heightened by a series of High Court proceedings filed by Friends of the Earth against the Minister and the Department for not issuing a Stop Notice preventing sand extraction while the evidence was being considered.
Owing to the complexity of the case, the decision on whether planning permission should be issued was referred to the Planning Appeals Commission (PAC) for determination. The PAC was also the determining authority in relation to the appeal against the issuing of the Enforcement Notice by the Department and the matters were conjoined to be determined by way of Inquiry held in 2018.
In addition to the detailed reporting submitted to support the EIA process, Tim Goodwin presented evidence to the High Court in the form of several Affidavits. Tim Goodwin also presented written and oral evidence at the 2018 Inquiry. Whilst awaiting the respective decisions of the PAC and the Department, Ecology Solutions has continued to act for the sand traders in undertaking additional detailed monitoring of qualifying bird interest features using a bespoke methodology, devised and agreed with the Department and relevant statutory advisors.