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Lough Neagh Partnership celebrates historic land lease transfer

Gerry Darby of Lough Neagh Partnership is pictured celebrating the signing of the transfer of the Derrytresk and Derryloughan School Lands lease with Francie Molloy MP; Cora Corry, Chair of Mid Ulster District Council; Anne McConkey, Department of Education; Michelle O’Neill MLA and Chair of Lough Neagh Partnership, Arnold Hatch.


It was a case of going to the top of the class for Lough Neagh Partnership as they met with representatives of the Department of Education to celebrate the signing of the transfer of the Derrytresk and Derryloughan School Lands lease.


The land had originally been owned by the Royal School Dungannon and the lease goes right back to the reign of King James I and the Plantation of Ulster. The transfer of the lease came about as a result of the extensive efforts of local residents, community representatives and politicians concerned about the conservation of the environmentally and culturally valuable peatlands around the Washing Bay Area.


The Lough Neagh Partnership led the campaign in recent years engaging with the local community and the Department of Education to secure the land lease.


Gerry Darby, Strategic Manager of Lough Neagh Partnership, said:

“This is a momentous day for Lough Neagh Partnership and those from the local community who have worked tirelessly to secure the lands for the greater good of this unique rich cultural and natural habitat.


“This new 20 year lease will enable Lough Neagh Partnership, working with the local community, to carry out future site management, conservation activities and development works, essential to maintaining and enhancing the natural habitat. Special praise must be given to the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency who provided funds to help with local community engagement process and the drawing up of restoration plans.”


Michelle O’Neill MLA said:

“It’s a real pleasure for me to witness this significant ceremony which sees the land lease transfer to Lough Neagh Partnership. I have been part of the lobbying efforts to secure the transfer of this land and I am only too aware that a conservation body like Lough Neagh Partnership will be committed to working closely with the Derrytresk and DerryLoughan community in the coming years to protect this part of the loughshore. There is immense potential for the school lands to link into the new Green Growth Strategy to help tackle climate change in a very practical way right here in Washing Bay.


“Theme five of the new Peace Plus programme has also identified a number of opportunities to restore protected sites like the school lands and to try and connect them to wider nature networks and corridors and I will endeavour to support any applications or proposals made to this programme. 


“The transfer of this lease is also a great example of a community based asset transfer and there is no reason why this model cannot be assigned to other larger projects such as the transfer of the bed and the soil of Lough Neagh itself, to a more local community or public based body. This is something that I have lobbied for in the past and I will continue to support and work with stakeholders to try and achieve.


“It truly is an historic day for everyone involved in this lease transfer and I wish the Lough Neagh Partnership every success in developing the land for the future.” 

Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Cllr Cora Corry added:

“I want to congratulate Lough Neagh Partnership on securing the transfer of the lease of this land. Mid Ulster District Council is fully supportive of this project due to the importance of the peatlands and bogs in this area and the protection offered to the habitat that lives here. I believe this patchwork of peatland is now in good hands and I wish Lough Neagh Partnership well in its endeavours to protect the area for future generations.” 


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