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Achill-henge planning exemption application refused

Achill-henge application refused

Edwin McGreal

An application by developer Joe McNamara to have his controversial Stonehenge-esque structure on Achill Island exempted from planning has been refused by the Planning Department of Mayo County Council.
McNamara had applied to have the structure, which has been the subject of High Court enforcement proceedings by the Council, exempted from planning on the basis, among others, that it was an ornamental garden.
However Senior Planner with Mayo County Council, Iain Douglas, confirmed to The Mayo News yesterday that the structure, located on a hillside in Pollagh, Achill, is not exempt from planning permission.
The structure was built on one weekend in November without any planning permission. The outer circle, close to 100 metres in circumference and consisting of 30 pre-cast concrete columns 4.5 metres high, was completed on Sunday, November 27 in near darkness.
Joe McNamara appeared in the High Court the following day and was subsequently found to be in contempt of court and was sentenced to three days in jail for reportedly ignoring enforcement orders served that weekend to cease work.
There is believed to be a second phase to the development not yet constructed. The ongoing High Court case resumes on January 31 where Mayo County Council have indicated they will be seeking to have the structure taken down by McNamara.
The developer, who has been dubbed The Anglo Avenger because of a series of high-profile protests against the bank, can appeal to An Bord Pleanála the council’s decision to not consider the development as exempt from planning. Iain Douglas confirmed to The Mayo News that the Planning Department had received a number of third party submissions in favour of the development.
Meanwhile the honorary president of the Achill Historical and Archaeological Society, John McNamara, has moved to dissociate himself from the stance taken by the Society with regard to Achill-henge.
Gerard Mangan, the secretary of the Society, wrote to The Mayo News last week saying that allowing the development to stand would have ‘grave implications for the future preservation’ of other archaeological sites in the area as ‘it may lead to inappropriate developments elsewhere in the area’.
However John McNamara, a retired schoolteacher and Honorary President of the Society, said he was not in agreement with them, especially with regard to the tourism benefits.
“I’m in favour of Achill-henge for a lot of reasons, among them anything that can help towards the stablisation of the community in Achill which is in serious decline at present,” he told The Mayo News. He added that he has tendered his resignation from the Achill Historical and Archaeological Society as a result.