Belfast Telegraph

Trust blasts plans to erect fencing along Derry’s Walls

BY DONNA DEENEY

Plans to erect fencing along Derry's Walls — obliterating the last viewing point of the 17th century St Columb's Cathedral — has enraged heritage activists charged with protecting the 400-year-old monument.

An application has been submitted by the Western Education and Library Board for palisade fencing.

But Mark Lusby from the Hollywell Trust said that would contravene the Department of Environment's own conservation plans for the wall set down in the 1980s.

The fence proposals have been submitted on behalf of Fountain Primary School, which wants to enclose a multi-use games area — but Mr Lusby wants the application blocked.

He said: “The conservation plan for the Derry Walls published by the DoE NIEA recognised as a potential threat to this ancient monument ‘inappropriate development which may have adverse visual and other impacts upon its setting’.

“Its policies state that ‘important views, aspects and vistas will need to be identified and then cherished and preserved’ and that planning policies need to inform any ‘future development outside the immediate boundaries of the City Walls which could affect its continued significance’.

“The view at Church Wall of the 17th century St Columb's Cathedral is one of the most important vistas of the Derry Walls which needs to be protected and enhanced. The only place to see this is at Church Wall from within the Fountain.

“In recent years, especially in the Fountain, the open green space around the walls has started to be filled in, obscuring these near views of the walls with trees, walls and high mesh fences.

“I do not believe that such high mesh fencing would be allowed so close to the York Walls or Chichester’s Walls — and similar standards of cherishing an ancient monument’s visual setting should be expected here too.”

Mr Lusby said that while he was in favour of protecting the view, he recognised the need for investment in the Fountain area which has suffered from high deprivation for decades.

He added: “The Fountain needs investment in essential community facilities, but these could be designed in a way which enhance the experience of the City Walls and do not detract from them.

“More imaginatively designed and located public realm, enhancing the near view of St Columb’s Cathedral and the Derry Walls, could attract more visitors into the Fountain, creating opportunities for jobs within the Fountain.”

The application, which is still under consideration, has already come to the attention of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and the Historic Monuments Unit, although neither body has lodged any objection to it from an archeological perspective.

A Western Education and |Library Board spokeswoman said: “The board has no comment to make at this time, as it awaits a decision from the planning service.”

Background

Built in the 17th century, the original Walls of Derry are almost perfectly preserved today, making Derry one of the finest examples of a walled city in Europe — and only remaining completely walled city in Ireland.

They are around 1.5km long, forming a walkway around the inner city, which is popular with visitors.

Discover Northern Ireland says they “provide a unique promenade to view the layout of the original town which preserves its Renaissance Style street plan to this day”.

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