The scrapyard by the sea

The scrapyard by the sea

This scrapyard had been active on the site located between the picturesque Helen’s Bay and Crawfordsburn since the 1930s – long before planning permission was needed for such a venture. On the 18th July 1992, a former MP raised the scrapyard in the House of Commons due to complaints of it being an eyesore by residents:

Let me finish by mentioning a problem that I have raised more than once in the House, although the Minister may not know about it: the problem of Mr. Geddis’s farm, which lies next to Crawfordsburn country park in my constituency. The area is one of great natural beauty, but Mr. Geddis’s farm is a dump. I could use worse language, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I do not wish to be reprimanded by you. It is a dump; yet tourists and local residents have to put up with it. I have the utmost sympathy for those local people, and I put their case to the Minister’s predecessor a number of times. The last letter that I received from him said that he would look into the matter again. I invited him to come and see the dump for himself. Let me now extend a warm invitation to the present Minister to come and see the beauties of North Down, and, in particular, this blot on the landscape.

Hansard Col 1109

At the end of the 1990s, a plan was mooted to salvage over 100 scuttled German U-boats to dismantle on the site. No savage award was granted due to objections from Russia and USA. The U-boats remain on the seabed to this day.

On the 12th of July 2005, the Fire Service of Northern Ireland were called to deal with a large blaze at the scrapyard. The owner of the scrapyard, Ignatius Geddis, claimed that vandals broke in and started the fire and that he has been targeted by vandals many times over the years.

The fire service reduced the fire to smoulder, but heavy smoke was reported by residents on various occasions for several months after, including on Christmas Day.

Local Green Party councillor at the time, Brian Wilson, stated his dismay at “the inadequacy of the powers-that-be to deal with the situation” as both the council (Known as North Down Borough Council in 2005) and the EHS (Environment and Heritage Service) both expected each other to put the fire out once and for all.

An EHS spokesperson stated to the council in August 2005 that “it did not intend to use its powers to address the blaze” and that the “power to take action to stop the fire burning rests with North Down Borough Council.”  The council stated that they “had anticipated that EHS, who have greater powers to deal with matters such as this, would take the lead on this case” and that its powers on the matter “are limited and have not proven especially effective in this case”.

North Down Borough Council went on to write “several letters instructing Mr Geddis to extinguish the fire.” Representatives of the council also visited the site on several locations and tried to persuade Mr. Geddis to extinguish the fire.

The then serving Fire Station Commander in Bangor, Philip Martin, stated that it was a deep seated fire, located in a mound and that: “If we had flooded the site, there was the potential of run-offs into streams.”  When asked why the fire continued to burn for so long, he said: “”It can be the biological breakdown of the materials in the stack. The fluctuating nature of the fire may have been due to changing underlying water levels.”

In 2008, Mr. Geddis was convicted of 14 counts of keeping and treating controlled waste” at this scrapyard.

Northern Ireland Environment Agency officers visited the site in 2008 and discovered a vast quantity of controlled waste. The scrapyard did not have a license to operate as a waste treatment or management facility.

Mr. Geddis went on to receive a five-year suspended sentence.

The scrapyard has been in an abandoned state since 2008. It had been claimed that the 29-acre site was sold to an American for over £5m with a sale agreed sign appearing on the property. It is not believed the deal went through.

On the 9th April 2022, a sign appeared on the gates stating that the land is for sale with full planning permission granted for social housing.

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