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AN investigation is underway into claims that large quantities of soil and rubble have been dumped in a sensitive part of Strangford Lough.

The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) has confirmed it is probing claims that the soil and rubble was dumped near the Floodgates, in Newtownards, and the National Trust has expressed concern.

The investigation will examine claims from local walkers that every week since spring soil and rubble has been deposited close to a popular walkway at the Floodgates.

One local walker, who regularly frequents the area, said the dumping of the waste is ‘ruining the cleanliness and beauty’ of the lough.

“Every week we go and another load has been dumped,” she said.

“It really has been months. Because of the high tides, the soil is being washed down the lough and damaging all of the sand and where the birds come in. It looks awful.”   

“It has been happening since spring,” the walker said. “No one seems to be doing anything about it, there should be an outcry about it, it is damaging the beauty of the lough.”

A spokesman for the Department for Agriculture, the Environment and Rural Affairs, said the NIEA is looking into the matter.   

“The NIEA received a report on August 30 concerning the depositing of a large amount of soil near the Newtownards Floodgates. The NIEA is currently investigating that report and cannot provide any further detail at present.”  

A National Trust spokesman said the area is a wildlife habitat and any allegation of dumping is of special concern.

“We are aware of an issue of dumping being reported and it is currently being investigated by the Department for Agriculture, the Environment and Rural Affairs,” said the spokesman.   

“Strangford Lough is a very special place which is designated because of its important habitats for birds and plants. Any illegal dumping of material is a serious cause for concern because of the damage it could do to the environment.”

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