Writes Ciaran Dineen
Today on Tuesday 19th of March the High Court begin a review into a challenge by local environmental group, Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment (CHASE), over An Bord Pleanála’s disgraceful decision to grant planning to Indaver for an incinerator in Ringaskiddy.
The case will run for approximately two weeks, in what is a continuation of an 18-year battle between CHASE, Indaver and a host of other bodies. Here we give you a summary of the debacle over the course of that time.
Application Number 1:
In 2001 Indaver, a waste management company, announced that it would be seeking planning permission for the development of a waste management facility in Ringaskiddy, South-Cork. However, it was only in fact six months later when they decided to eventually lodge an application to Cork County Council, during which time a group of opponents (later to be known as CHASE) came together to protest the development of the facility.
Planning required a Material Contravention from Cork County Council in order to change the Development Plan, as the site in question needed to be re-zoned. This attempt failed however, as the 75% threshold of councillors required to pass the Contravention was not acquired in May 2002.
This is where An Bord Pleanála (ABP) come in, as Indaver appealed the Material Contravention decision. ABP agreed to conduct an oral hearing due to the matter being of such public importance, with a two-week period being set to start in September 2003.
It was decided on the second day of the hearing that submissions and arguments surrounding health and environmental conditions would not be taken into account, therefore this was to be a pure planning decision. This enraged CHASE and much of the public, with legal opinions claiming that the hearing as a result was a ‘sham’.
Despite overwhelming evidence from the senior planner, Philip Jones, recommending that ABP refuse planning permission, they did not follow such advice and subsequently granted the development. In their reasoning, the Board argued that the facility was in-line with national Government policy, which required Ireland to become self-sufficient in managing its waste.
The appointment of Laura Burke, who was previously a project manager with Indaver, to a high-ranking position at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), was seen as a clear conflict of interests, as Indaver still required approval from EPA to go ahead with their proposals.
A lengthy process continued to unfold as CHASE sought a judicial review
over ABP ‘s decision to grant permission, but by 2007, Indaver pulled out of
proceedings, citing the emerging economic crisis as part of their reasoning.
Application Number 2:
However, Indaver did not wait long to submit a second application, which they did in November 2008. The important twist on this occasion was that Indaver now could use the Strategic Infrastructure Act of 2006, to go straight to An Bord Pleanála with their proposals, bypassing a dissenting Cork County Council in the process. The Act was implemented with the aim of reducing costs and Court time for applications deemed to be of strategic infrastructural importance.
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