Villagers suffer 'summer of hell as quarry pumps out dawn-to-dusk noise'
Locals accuse Executive and council of planning failure
Furious residents in a quiet coastal village have accused a council and a government department of failing to use new planning powers to protect them.
Families in Kircubbin claimed their lives were thrown into upheaval after a flooded quarry, which had been abandoned for more than 30 years, was re-opened a few months ago.
They said the picturesque area of the Ards Peninsula had suffered a "summer of hell" with dawn-to-dusk noise and dust.
They also accused Ards and North Down Borough Council of virtually ignoring them, along with the new Department of Infrastructure.
The villagers added that permanent damage was being inflicted on the area, including the destruction of badger setts.
Coulters Hill resident Sharon Drennan said that the daily stress of coping with the quarry had reduced her to an "emotional wreck".
"Our rights to residential peace and quiet, free from pollution, noise and danger from heavy lorries, has been totally overlooked by our local council," she claimed.
"This quarry site, which has been abandoned for decades, has been allowed to reopen without as much as a letter informing residents of the intent.
"The noise at times has been so terrible I have found myself staying away from home. The dust inside our property is unacceptable and of concern to us as our son, Lee, is asthmatic.
"The lorries come out at high speed and are a danger to small children and pets.
"I have been reduced to an emotional wreck - the stress of this is taking its toll.
"We feel many of our very legitimate concerns have not been taken seriously by the council."
Resident Andy Clapperton, who has repeatedly written to the local council and to Sinn Fein Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard, added: "The (locals) have had to endure constant noise, dust, stress and discomfort caused by the rock hammers, crushers, screeners, generators, water pumps and heavy plant machinery used on the site. There are multiple movements each day of diggers, tractors and lorries speeding up and down Coulters Hill, right past the front door of many of the residents.
"Some days it has started before 6am and goes on to 11pm. All this activity is continuing while the planning department of the council says it is continuing to investigate."
Letters sent to the council argue that it should be enforcing legislation and taking action including an environmental impact assessment, as well as setting conditions for the operation of the quarry.
The residents' attack came after minister Hazzard confirmed a number of the new amalgamated councils had run into trouble when implementing their new, more robust planning powers, but his department refused to confirm if North Down and Ards Borough Council was among them. A spokesman told this newspaper: "This is an enforcement matter for the council". A council statement added that the body was "undertaking detailed investigations including legal advice and involving working with other statutory agencies outside planning control".
"Until it has concluded those investigations, it would be inappropriate to comment on the substantive content of the allegations, which remain under investigation," the statement added.
"The council is content it is exercising its planning powers appropriately. We appreciate the frustrations of the residents".
Robert Gilmore, who leased the land, said: "There is planning permission as far as I am aware." The quarry operators were not available for comment.