Developer (19) slammed for digging into Foughill mountainside in Armagh
A businessman has forbidden digging into the side of a scenic mountain in South Armagh.
According to locals, developer John Aiken (19) did not apply for planning permission before ordering his digger drivers to destroy a significant section of Foughill Mountain near Jonesborough.
Last month Mr Aiken – who lives in a mansion near Ravensdale – bought a plot of land overlooking the Irish border between Co Armagh and Co Louth.
But now he has received an order from Newry, Morne and Down Council preventing him from continuing for 28 days.
He told locals that he wanted to build a new truck park with warehouses close to the European Union border.
But when we caught up with him this week, to ask him why he continued development without planning permission, he said, “Whose land is this? Me, and I can do whatever I want.
Locals are railing against what they claim is Mr Aiken’s disregard for planning laws as well as the damage to wildlife.
A recent survey of the site – seen by the Sunday World – reveals that it contains several badger tracks. And the area – which is just over an acre – is also home to roosting bats, red kites and sparrowhawks.
It has never been cultivated and in recent years the area has become a favorite with groups of walkers.
Historian Seamus Murphy – from nearby Dromitee – joined a small protest at the site on Friday when, coincidentally, Mr Aiken showed up in his BMW sports car.
He told Mr. Aiken that he had done more damage to the hill than the British Army had done when stationed there.
“This mountain has been there for thousands of years. The people who live here treat this mountain and its surroundings with respect,” Mr Murphy said.
“They value it and they’ve protected it for future generations. The British Army was here for three decades, but they didn’t do anything like the damage you caused when they left.”
Sean Phillips’ bungalow is located a few centimeters from the excavated site.
And he is worried in case the work on the site causes his family home to collapse. “You can see how close it is to our house. It’s literally inches from that hole in the ground. Everyone can see it’s downright dangerous.”
Mr Phillips – whose family has lived in the area for six generations – said he had tried numerous times to find out about Mr Aiken’s plans for the property but had not yet been able to get any definitive answers.
And Margaret Campbell – who helps lead the Gap of the North Walkers group – says she was appalled when she saw diggers arrive and start ripping up the side of the mountain.
“It is an area of outstanding natural beauty. People come from all over to see this place now that it is safe to do so.
“As the photographs show, a huge void has been carved into the mountain.
“If this is not stopped, it will become the norm, not just here, but in other parts of the border region.
“This must be stopped and the mountain must be restored to how it was before these people arrived,” she said.
The Sunday World has learned that Mr Aiken has been served with a 28-day restraining order preventing him from continuing development.
He told us, “I’m only interested in protecting people from injuries caused by falling rocks.
“Rocks were falling from this mountain onto the road. People could have been injured. By cleaning up this site, we made it safer,” he said.
He added: “It’s a shame you’re doing this story. I’ve got another one for you on the other side of the mountain. And you could have done a few bobs for yourself.”
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