Northern Ireland's richest man has agreed to build a new coastal path following a long-running legal dispute over a right-of-way on his land.
Lord Ballyedmond (below) agreed to the gesture of goodwill which would allow the public safe access to Killowen Beach in Co Down for the first time in several years.
In 2010 the head of veterinary pharmaceuticals company Norbrook Laboratories was granted an injunction preventing access to the laneway across his estate after concerns were raised about any trespassers being able to approach sensitive research facilities.
This came after Newry and Mourne District Council sought the removal of metal fences erected on land close to the foreshore at Killowen.
The resolution of the latest High Court proceedings was announced yesterday, just days before a two-week trial of Lord Ballyedmond's case against the council was due to get under way.
He had been seeking a ruling that the stretch of land was private, but the council wanted a determination that the route should be open to the public.
Earlier this week his lawyers were still pressing ahead with their action. However, in court yesterday senior counsel Stephen Shaw QC revealed that a settlement had now been reached.
It will involve constructing a new coastal pathway to provide public access to the beach as an alternative to the disputed public right of way, the court heard.
The proposed pathway will be adjacent to part of the lands known as the Big Moat, Mr Shaw said. It is understood that once the path has been built the council will take over responsibility for managing it.
Congratulating both sides on the resolution, Mr Justice Deeny said it was regrettable that the council had been at odds with the principal employer in the area.
Ulster Federation of Rambling Clubs chairman Alan McFarland welcomed the settlement, saying it was preferable to a lengthy court case.
A public right-of-way is a highway which any member of the public may use as of right; it may be created specifically or through 'deemed dedication' (by the public openly using a path for a period of time) with the knowledge of the landowner; and may be limited to certain users, for example walkers only or walkers and horse riders.