Banagher Dam history mystery

The demolition of the former filter house at Banagher Dam has been slammed as 'a missed opportunity' for tourism.

Tuesday, 15th March 2016, 11:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 15th March 2016, 12:00 pm
The Old Filter House at Banagher Dam. Photo: Danny O'Kane

NI Water say the building was empty when it was demolished in recent weeks and was knocked down “in the interests of public safety”.

However, the ‘Journal’ has obtained photographs which clearly show the building was not empty and there was, in fact, at least six large filters and a boat left inside.

Yesterday, NI Water was unable to say what had happened to the filters and boat left in the building.

Filter tanks and a boat left inside the building when it was being demolished.

Dungiven man John Mullan, who walks at Banagher Dam every day, believes the old filter house would have been perfect as a visitor attraction.

“Yes, it was in a state of disrepair but I just can’t understand why anyone would knock it down when you think of the historical value,” said John of the almost 100-year-old building.

“Banagher Glen is a tourist gem. With some investment, the old filter house would have made a great museum to teach people about water filtration.

“My annoyance is the inability of those in power to see the value of it and now it’s too late - it’s gone. It’s a missed opportunity.”

Sinn Fein Colr. Tony McCaul looks at the site where the Old Filter House was located.

Danny O’Kane, from Dungiven, said it was a shame the building had been reduced to rubble.

“I always thought it should be retained as a museum because of what it contained. It was part of the system,” said Mr O’Kane, who was in charge of Banager Dam for 10 years through his job with the forestry department.

“It’s a real shame it’s gone.”

Sinn Fein councillor Tony McCaul said “a piece of history has been wiped out”.

Some of the filters that were inside the old filter house when it was being demolished.

“There’s nothing left and that’s a missed opportunity for tourism,” said Colr. McCaul.

A spokesperson for NI Water said “the old pumping house at Banagher Glen was empty prior to the demolition. Many years ago there was a boat that was in poor condition and a number of filter tanks.

“In the 1980s, the filters were moved for use at plants in Enniskillen and Newry and it is thought the boat was disposed of for safety reasons.”

Sinn Fein councillor Tony McCaul said local people are annoyed the old filter house, built in 1930, has been demolished.

Filter tanks and a boat left inside the building when it was being demolished.

“It really is a missed opportunity,” said Colr. McCaul.

“I know there were local groups who had talked about turning it into a museum. Banagher Dam is a real gem and this would have been an added attraction for visitors. This area relies on tourism and I think it’s such a shame the building is gone.”

NI Water said “the roof of the building was collapsing and during high winds sheets of tin were being blown across the dam access road”.

“The work involved obtaining approvals from DOE Planning Service and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) as the building is in an area of special scientific interest.

“However, as the old filter house was not a listed building and construction work was not involved, Planning Service did not have any further input.

“NIEA required an ecological study to be carried out in support of a Habitat Regulatory Assessment. This was completed and approval was received from NIEA to proceed with the demolition.”

Sinn Fein Colr. Tony McCaul looks at the site where the Old Filter House was located.
Some of the filters that were inside the old filter house when it was being demolished.