COUNCILLORS have voiced concern that a 'Dark Skies' designation will halt future development in Belcoo and the surrounding areas.

The issue was brought up at last week's meeting of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, where councillors heard that a Dark Skies 'reserve' status was being sought. 

A Dark Sky Reserve is public or private land possessing an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights, and a nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, or educational value, its cultural heritage, or public enjoyment.

Sinn Féin Councillor Sheamus Greene expressed concern about the impact that a Dark Skies designation would have on projects such as long-awaited lighting at Cottage Green, Belcoo. 

"I have been told that one of the reasons there is no lighting in Belcoo is because of the Dark Skies application," he said. "Does Dark Skies rule out all development? 

"If you build a development of houses, there will obviously be street lights and different things. Does this end any development around the likes of Belcoo?"

Councillor John Feely (SF) suggested that councillors had been given a "wrong steer" on the impact that a Dark Skies designation would have on future development. 

In response, John Boyle, Director of Community and Wellbeing, said that under 'reserve' status, the Dark Skies Institute would have to be informed about any plans for additional lighting. 

"If we were to have future lighting, we would have to go back to the Dark Skies Institute to see if we still comply with the reserve status we were going for," he said. 

"There are five designations, and all are dependent on light in the vicinity. Reserve is the third level."

He continued: "Because of the vicinity of Belcoo and surrounding areas, we were encouraged go for reserve status.

"If lighting were to increase in light of future development, we would have to go to the institute again to seek their advice on the accreditation, and which level we would wish to have," he added.