Northern Ireland

Report finds 'no grounds' for public to own Lough Neagh

Aerial view of part of Lough Neagh
Image caption Lough Neagh, which is the largest freshwater lake in the British Isles, borders five of the six counties in Northern Ireland.

A report has found "no compelling grounds" for Stormont purchasing Lough Neagh from the Earl of Shaftesbury.

A working group had been exploring the option.

The lough is the biggest fresh water lake in the British Isles and supplies 50% of drinking water in Northern Ireland.

The Shaftesbury estate thought a previous valuation of £6m "possibly reflects a fair and not exorbitant sum".

It owns the majority of the bed and its soil.

In 2012, Sinn Féin secured a working group to look into public ownership.

While not on the market, the report said the earl felt if his ownership "was a barrier to development potential of the lough he would consider a sale".

The report added: "The working group has been unable to identify any tangible benefits to the effective management of the lough should it be brought into public ownership."

But it called for a more inclusive public management structure.

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