A man has been fined £2,000 for unauthorised works to a scheduled monument, which has existed for more than 1,000 years.
Robin Hunter, 54, from Woodside Road, Ballymena, appeared at Antrim County Court for today’s (Monday) appeal hearing.
The court heard that he caused damage to an ancient field system near Moorfields, Co Antrim, which was declared a Scheduled Monument in 1987 by Department for Communities’ Historic Environment Division.
Mr Hunter, a retired sheep farmer, had previously pleaded guilty to the offence and had been fined £2,500 – reduced to £2,000 on appeal. The maximum fine the court could impose was £5,000.
When Historic Environment Division (HED) officials visited the site in June 2021, they found a laneway, 500 metres long and four metres wide, had been carved out of the landscape without consent, causing damage to the ancient field system from 500 AD.
The court was also told the land had been on the market for sale for three years prior to Mr Hunter purchasing it, and that the defendant claimed he had been unaware of the Scheduling that exists.
Referring to a report from HED, which helps communities understand and realise the value of our historic environment, Judge McCormick stated while the area was small in terms of the overall surface area of the protected site, nonetheless part of the field system had been destroyed by work that ought never to have occurred.
Following the conclusion of the case, a spokesperson for the Department for Communities said: “We appreciate the pressures of modern farming and business. One of our primary aims is to work closely with monument owners to facilitate their needs where possible. However, we must also pursue prosecutions where the actions have warranted it.
“Archaeological heritage is an important and finite resource. Works at scheduled monuments are regulated by the Department on behalf of the public and prior legal consent for works must be gained by owners. Such consents are known as Scheduled Monument Consent and are managed by HED on behalf of the Department.”