Belfast Telegraph

Campaigner fails in bid to stop planned ferry terminal

By Alan Erwin

An environmental campaigner has lost her legal battle to stop a new ferry terminal project linking the Mournes and Cooley mountain regions.

Appeal judges in Belfast have upheld the High Court dismissal of Christine Gibson's challenge to the granting of planning permission and a marine licence for the service across Carlingford Lough.

They also directed that the personal litigant must pay some of the costs of the case.

But Ms Gibson could still attempt to take her fight to the Supreme Court in London.

She was seeking to overturn a ruling that approval for the ferry project between Greencastle, Co Down, and Greenore in Co Louth was lawful. Ms Gibson, who lives close to the site, brought cases against Newry, Mourne and Down District Council and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs.

In June 2015 the council granted planning permission for the construction of ferry terminal facilities at Pier Road in Greencastle. As part of her case Ms Gibson challenged the department's decision making process in granting a marine licence in June last year. She attacked the adequacy of the environmental statements and stressed the protected status for parts of Carlingford Lough's shoreline.

In November last year a High Court judge dismissed her bid for a judicial review. He held there was no expert evidence to contradict the conclusions of environmental impact assessments carried out throughout the process. But contesting his decision at the Court of Appeal, the campaigner stressed the potential impact of coastal erosion.

However, Lord Justice Gillen, sitting with Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, rejected all grounds of challenge. Describing Ms Gibson's approach to the litigation as "scattergun", he stressed that she received a fair hearing throughout the proceedings. No evidence was produced to suggest the grant of planning permission had been unlawful, the judges held.

Lawyers representing the council and the department pressed for an award of limited costs, understood to have previously been capped at £3,000 in total. Ms Gibson urged the court to take into consideration that she had already spent around £3,000 preparing her case.

But pointing out that she knew the potential risks of the litigation, Sir Declan confirmed: "The respondents should have their costs up to the maximum of the amount specified in the order."

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