The attempt to put in a Sewage Treatment Plant at one of Moville’s best beaches at Carnagarve now appears to be dead in the water. Today’s Derry Journal front page states that the Crown Estates, the landlord of Queen Elizabeth, say the they own the seabed and that they will block any attempts to pump effluent or treated sewage into Lough Foyle.

That appears to be game, set and match to End Craig and the Carnagarve Group.

Do the Crown estates own the seabed?

Although the Irish Government dispute that the seabed up to the high water mark are British waters there is a tacit acceptance of it by Irish departments and agencies. Indeed the Ministry of Agriculture, from whom Donegal Council said they were going to buy the land, pay rent for the use of it to the Crown Estates through the cross border Loughs agency.

Purchase Orders

Although Donegal Council sent out compulsory purchase orders to citizens of Moville and Greencastle about purchasing their land on the shore front, according to The Ministry of Agriculture, they never received any such notice from Donegal Council which is very strange.

If they had got one I’m sure that the Ministry of Agriculture would have informed Donegal Council that they didn’t actually own the land and indeed they pay rent for the use of it themselves.

Those of you out there who rent houses, what would you do or say if someone offered to purchase the house from you? You would tell the person that you don’t own it and tell them who the owner is. Was that what the Council were afraid of?


One of the main income streams for the Crown Estates from Lough Foyle are the sale of licences to aquaculture businesses who could be severely affected by a massive 300 metre pipeline being dug out into the Foyle with treated sewage flowing through it every day and with possible raw sewage going into it in the event of a flood.

Of course, the only faint possibility that there is of the Sewage Treatment Planet being built there now would be if the Council paid a massive amount of money to the British Crown Estates annually to compensate them for any loss they might have on their licences for aquaculture businesses.

However, as the main reason for the change of mind by the Council back in 1995 reversing their 1990 decision to build it outside the estuary was that it was cheaper. It won’t be cheaper if they have to pay a massive annual rent to the Crown Estates. It will be cheaper if they build it beyond the estuary.

Big Loss

The savings would have been a few hundred thousand pounds. However, the Council have now spent €5m of taxpayers money in it without a spade ever going into the ground. Indeed they spent €750,000 on enquiry with massive lawyers’ fees which is more than they would have saved from the change of location from outside the estuary to Carnagarve.

One wonders why the Council didn’t deliver the compulsory purchase order to the Ministry of Agriculture in October 2011 like they did to all other property owners. It seems very strange to have missed out what they saw as the primary landowner.


Another question that should be put was “Was it every mentioned in the last 23 years that the British Crown Estates claimed that they owned the seabed and were indeed collecting rent from Irish agencies and departments like the Ministry of Agriculture through the Loughs Agency? If it was mentioned even once then they should have got legal advice to find it who actually owned the seabed. That should have been a starting point.

Another question might be “Has the Council every paid any rent for the use of shore facilities and the seabed to the Crown Estates through the Loughs agency or directly?” The abandoned breakwater at Greencastle and the Greencastle ferry and harbour spring to mind as possibilities. I don’t know whether they do or not but if they paid any rent for anything to the Crown Estates via the Loughs Agency why would they think that the Ministry of Agriculture owned the seabed?

High Court

There is now a High Court case on the matter in Dublin and the judge has retired to consider his verdict. What did the Council tell them in evidence about the ownership of the land. Did they tell them that they believed the Ministry of Agriculture to be the owners of the land? Did they tell the judge that the Ministry of Agriculture say they had no knowledge of this and hadn’t receive a compulsory purchase order like everyone else? Surely they didn’t tell the judge that they had served one on them.

According to Councillor Murray in the Journal there is potential for another €11m to €12m to be wasted by the Council on this. The current €5m that they have wasted is more than they will bring in from the Property Tax this year.

It could get worse as the Crown Estates knew nothing about all of this and are taking legal advice. Have Donegal Council been using the foreshore for work without their permission? The Council could end up being sued.

Raw Sewage

Another good question might be “If the Crown Estates have been planning to pump treated sewage into their waters for the past 23 years, do they know that raw sewage is currently going into the Foyle and has been for decades against EU law? What might they think about that and the damage that has been done to their aquaculture business over the years”.

It doesn’t bear thinking about what damages the Council would have to pay for something like that if it was being done without permission.


Oh what a mess they have got themselves into – and the next Council elections are just 14 months away. That may be why there has been a deafening silence from those in the Council.

They need to act to change this as quickly as they can. They are already opening themselves up to national ridicule in the national newspapers and radio from both sides of the border. They have time to rectify this but they need to act now with swiftness and alacrity.