Campaigners in Belcoo who have been lobbying Fermanagh and Omagh District Council to have lighting installed in the Cottage Meadow have been handed a boost in their fight.

At the Environmental Services committee meeting on June 8, the majority of councillors went against a recommendation from Council officers to not install lighting in the area, with proposals for a business case and funding exploration and community evaluation passing instead.

The Council's Director of Environment and Place, John News, recommended that the Council does not install the lighting, taking into account an environmental study, the Council's biodiversity strategy, its obligations around climate change and other areas.

"When we take into account all of the other issues and the Council's obligations around pre-existing strategies, the provision of lighting – even with a lighting scheme that would seek to mitigate biodiversity harm – it is recommended that we don’t proceed with this scheme at this time," said Mr. News.

"It is also noted within the report as part of the environmental report we also got an indication of the type of scheme that would be required, and earlier this year when we had looked at some indicative costs for that scheme, it was likely to be in the region of £120,000, which obviously doesn’t take account of more recent inflationary pressures with ongoing maintenance or revenue costs."

Mr. News said there was no provision for such a scheme within the Council's current capital budget.

However, SDLP Councillor Adam Gannon disagreed with the recommendation and proposed to continue looking at options and create a business case for the lighting.

"I think there are concerns outlined in the report, but there is nothing insurmountable there in my opinion, even when you consider some of the concerns around, say, the Dark Skies initiative.

"We are talking about small, low-level lighting – a small quantity of low-level lighting, just enough to safely see the path at your feet, and I would be recommending that it be on a timer, like many of the other lights we have in areas such as at The Round O [in Enniskillen]."

Councillor Gannon said he had spoken to many people in Belcoo who were in favour of the lighting, and added: "Previously there had been a petition for this, with more than 500 signatures handed in to the Council, and that’s a significant number of people within the Belcoo area there.

"So I think there is massive public support for this, and this is about creating a safe space for people to exercise. It will be brilliant for their physical and mental health and well-being."

Sinn Féin Councillors Anthony Feely and Chris McCaffrey also spoke against the recommendation not to install lighting, with Councillor Feely adding "it seems to be the same old story, finding more excuses to deny the community project in Belcoo".

Councillor Feely, who proposed a community evaluation for the lighting, continued: "The lack of lighting around the Cottage Meadow means that residents can only avail of this wonderful site in the summer months, and in the dark winter it is no good for them."

Councillor McCaffrey added his support, saying: "I do find the recommendation extremely disappointing that nothing would be done about the Cottage Meadow in Belcoo.

"I know for a fact, first-hand, the massive demand that there is for the provision of lighting to enable residents to use this wonderful facility, this wonderful resource, all year round.

"None of these issues are insurmountable. In my opinion, it’s a great project – it would pay an enormous dividend to the community, and it would certainly be a positive project for the Council to be involved in."

Councillor Donal O'Cofaigh, who said he walks the Cottage Meadow regularly, gave his reasons for opposing the installation of lighting in the area.

He said: "As someone who lives in a Council house, I can walk to the end of my street, cross to a publicly owned park and go around the corner, and you can see the Milky Way, the Orion constellation, with all its historic and cultural significance for us.

"Unfortunately, I don’t see how you can reconcile those of us who wish to have a commune with nature or the sky, and those who want to run."

Other councillors did lend their support to rejecting the recommendation, and the proposals from Councillors Gannon and Feely, and the recommendation was defeated.