Omagh gold mine compensation to be paid by planning serviceThursday, June 14th, 2012
The Planning Service in Northern Ireland has been told to by the Ombudsman to pay compensation to three residents as it failed to enforce regulations at a Tyrone gold mine.
The Ombudsman investigation found planners had made several errors in how they handled complaints over breaches of planning regulations outside Omagh.
In 2008 and 2009, the company Omagh Minerals moved hundreds of tons of rocks from the mine. This involved trucks carrying the rocks along narrow road networks and was carried out without planning consent.
Despite objections, the Planning Service took over twelve months to issue enforcement notices, forbidding the company to move the rocks without authorisation.
All three residents who brought the claims to the Ombudsman have seen their complaints upheld.
Tom Frawley, Ombudsman, has recommended the Planning Service pay the residents £10,000 compensation each.
He described the Planning Service as practicing “maladministration”.
He said: “My investigation has highlighted the failures of Planning Service to effectively monitor and enforce planning control/conditions at the precious metal mine.”
One resident described the situation where, at its peak, over a hundred trucks were using the narrow road network a day.
He said: “The people living around here were imprisoned in their homes.
“Parents could not walk their children and others had problems getting to work. The residents were failed by the Planning Service.
“I have lost a pristine environment around my home. That is not a worthy legacy for a few pence.
“It was never about the money or the compensation. In fact this money will probably go towards our legal advisers to help maintain our fight and ensure our environment is protected.”
The Ombudsman said: “I find it wholly unacceptable that the Planning Service failed to take appropriate timely enforcement action commensurate with the breach of planning control given the very significant impact this had on local residents including the complainants.
“I believe the Planning Service clearly should have taken more effective robust and timely enforcement action following the initial complaints from residents in June 2008.”
Roland Phelps, of Galantas Gold Corporation, which owns the mine, stated: “I can’t comment on the report without having seen the contents.
“However, the company did not knowingly breach any planning condition as regards the export of the rock from the site or indeed on any other matter.”
Since February 2012 the Planning Service has allowed some rock to be removed from the mine but under stricter conditions.