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Take down Achill-henge, or we will – Mayo County Council

Take down Achill-henge, or we will – Mayo County Council

Edwin McGreal

Mayo County Council will take down the controversial Achill-henge structure on Achill Island if the man behind the project, Joe McNamara, refuses to do so.
An Bord Pleanála (ABP) ruled last Tuesday that the Stonehenge-esque structure on a hilltop overlooking the villages of Pollagh and Keel was not exempted development.
The matter came before the High Court on Friday last, where a stay on an earlier demolition order was lifted. The stay was invoked until ABP made its decision.
Mayo County Council warned in court that the structure must be demolished ‘or there will be serious consequences’.
County Secretary John Condon said that in the first instance Mr McNamara would be required to demolish the structure. Failing this, the council would carry out the work and apply for its costs, the court heard.
The council first brought High Court proceedings against Mr McNamara after he failed to obey a notice requiring him to cease work on the unauthorised structure last November. McNamara and a small group of helpers built Achill-henge over the course of a weekend. McNamara was subsequently jailed for contempt of a court order requiring he cease the work, but was released after three days.
McNamara then applied to Mayo County Council claiming that the structure was exempt from development, arguing it was an ornamental garden on agricultural lands. Mayo County Council turned that application down at which stage McNamara appealed the matter to ABP.
In March, the High Court put a stay on an order requiring the structure to be demolished pending the outcome of the An Bord Pleanála appeal.
On Tuesday ABP ruled against Mr McNamara and found the structure did in fact require planning permission.
As a consequence, on Friday, Mr Justice Brian McGovern said that in those circumstances, he was lifting the stay on the High Court orders requiring the structure to be demolished and the site restored to its original state, under the supervision of an ecologist and an archaeologist.
A spokesperson for Mayo County Council said it was proceeding with the enforcement process with ‘reasonable haste’ but that McNamara will be given ‘the opportunity to comply with the court order before any other steps are explored’.