Plans to erect fencing alongside a section of Derry’s historic City Walls have local heritage activists up in arms.
An application has been submitted by the Western Education and Library Board for three metre high security fencing adjacent to the Church Wall stretch of the ramparts in the Fountain area of the city.
The fence proposals have been submitted on behalf of Fountain Primary School which wants to enclose a green space located next to a newly opened multi-use games area (MUGA).However, Mark Lusby, of the Holywell Trust, says such a move could contravene the Department of Environment’s own conservation plans for the Walls.
He also contends not enough is being done to protect the visual setting of “Ireland’s most important set of town walls”.
He added: “While visitors will still be able to walk around the exterior of Church Wall from New Gate to Bishop Gate, the experience will be more like walking in an alleyway, bounded on one side by the high City Wall and on the other by a continuous mesh palisade fence, removing the opportunity to pause on the open green space and get unobstructed views of the Cathedral and the Walls.
“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 of an ancient monument’s visual setting should be expected here, too”.
Mr Lusby says that, in recent years, near views of the Walls have been compromised.
“Large scale urban regeneration in the 1970s exposed external views of the Walls from New Gate in the Fountain right round to Butcher Gate at Fahan Street,” he says.
“However, in recent years, especially in the Fountain, this open green space around the Walls has started to be filled in, obscuring these near views of the Walls with trees, high hedge, walls and high mesh fences.
“The Fountain needs investment in essential community facilities but these could be designed in a way which enhance the experience of the City Walls. 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.”
It’s understood the planning 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, to date, 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.”