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Flying in the face of the law?

Council to investigate Ballina airstrip

Locals express concern over safety

Edwin McGreal

Mayo County Council is set to investigate suspected planning breaches relating to an airstrip in Rehins, Ballina, The Mayo News has learned.
The strip has been in use for over two years and a large shed appears to be in use as a hangar for a number of small aircraft based there.
However, when contacted, Senior Planning Officer for Mayo County Council, Iain Douglas, said that no planning application had ever been lodged in respect of the airstrip or a hangar.
He said that if the shed was used to store aircraft, it would require planning permission while the strip itself would also require planning if it was in frequent use.
A local who contacted The Mayo News said that the strip was in use every weekend and on a near daily basis in the summer time.
Iain Douglas said that if the strip was being used that frequently, it would require planning for material change of use of the field. He added that the council will investigate the site this week.
The local man, who lives in the area but didn’t want to be named, expressed his concern about the safety of planes landing at the strip. It is located parallel and in close proximity to a row of houses, across the road from the entrance to Hotel Ballina.
“We can’t go out into our back garden a lot of the time because the planes are flying so low. The children are afraid that the planes will fall down on top of them. The planes fly seriously low, we can recognise the people in them, that’s how low they are to the houses.
“The noise levels are there on a continuous basis from early morning until darkness, from small planes and helicopters. There would be five or six planes there at any given time. Even this Sunday, in winter, there were three planes flying from the airstrip,” he said.
The Mayo News visited the area on Sunday, and two small aircraft could be seen parked outside the shed. They were later put into the shed. Two other planes subsequently landed at the location, before taking off shortly before 5pm.
The owner of the land in question, Wesley Trimble, told The Mayo News that he wasn’t actively involved in the use of the strip but that whatever planning issues arose, he would be happy to deal with them. He added that the airstrip was not used frequently, saying it was used on average once a month and that Sunday’s use was the first in a number of weeks.
Two men who fly from the airstrip are local men Andy Clarke and John Fallon.
Andy Clarke told The Mayo News that no complaints had been made to him concerning the use of the strip.
However, there appears to be some confusion over the licensing of the site as an airstrip. Wesley Trimble said that as far as he was aware the site is registered with the relevant bodies, while Andy Clarke said that the strip is registered with the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA). However, when contacted by The Mayo News, a spokesperson for the IAA said that airstrips like this one did not come under their control and such a decision was a matter for the relevant local authority, which is Mayo County Council in this case.

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