Jim Ferry’s court case against another Donegal waste firm is adjourned

Applicant was ‘a notorious environmental polluter’ whose reasons were ‘highly suspicious’, judge says

Jim Ferry was jailed for nine weeks arising out of illegal dumping in Co Donegal. Photograph: Collins Courts

Jim Ferry was jailed for nine weeks arising out of illegal dumping in Co Donegal. Photograph: Collins Courts

 

The High Court has adjourned for a year a challenge brought by a businessman, who was jailed for nine weeks arising out of illegal dumping in Co Donegal, against another waste disposal company.

Ms Justice Miriam O’Regan said she was satisfied the development at issue was currently unauthorised but granted the adjournment to allow the respondents continue their efforts to regularise their position, including by seeking substitute consent.

She also described the applicant, Jim Ferry, as “a notorious environmental polluter in Donegal” whose reasons in bringing the proceedings were, she said, “at best”, “highly suspicious”.

They were, at worst, disconnected from environmental concerns and motivated by a personal grievance, she said.

In proceedings under Section 160 of the 2000 Planning and Development Act and the 1996 Waste Management Act, Mr Ferry claims a waste facility near Manorcunningham has been operating without proper planning permission.

That facility, located at Labbadish, Manorcunningham, Letterkenny, is operated by firms John Caulderbanks, trading as D&M Services, and D&M Environmental Services Ltd, trading as DM Waste.

In a recently published, judgment Ms Justice O ‘Regan said she was satisfied to adjourn the matter for a year to allow the respondent firms time to regularise their planning situation.

After considering the planning history, the judge was satisfied the development, which had been regulated for most of its existence, was currently unauthorised.

Donegal Co Council had issued a warning letter to the respondents in 2018, followed by two enforcement notices requiring cessation of the use of lands as a waste facility but did not proceed further with these matters, she said.

This was because the respondents had been making ongoing attempts to regularise their situation.

This was being done before Mr Ferry initiated his proceedings, the judge added.

An inspector from An Bord Pleanala found, while the development was unauthorised, this should not be a bar to granting ‘substitute consent’ which would allow the respondents continue to operate the facility, the judge said.

The respondents’ engagement with the planning authorities had also been delayed due to developments in the legislative process, she found.

The court heard that Mr Ferry was subject of separate proceedings by Donegal County Council over the operation of, and storage of waste, at Rossbraken, Co Donegal by his former company Ferry Refuse Collection.

Those proceedings arose after the council claimed, instead of properly disposing of the waste, Mr Ferry illegally buried it on the lands.

Waste collection and storage ceased at that site in 2017.

Mr Ferry, who said he made every effort to deal with breaches of his waste facility permit and remove waste from the site, was jailed for nine weeks in 2019 over his failure to comply with certain orders made by the High Court.

Mr Ferry claimed, while dealing with the local authority in relation to his own business, he brought to its attention other waste operators were involved in illegal activities.

He claimed nothing was done about that and, in his proceedings against the D&M entities, sought orders restraining them continuing the alleged unauthorised development by using the lands at Labbadish, Manorcunningham as a waste and recycling storage facility.

Opposing the application, the respondents claimed Mr Ferry’s action was motivated by his personal grievance and a campaign of retribution against them, allegations which he denied.

The respondents gave a detailed planning history, accepting enforcement notices had been served on the site by the local authority, but said they have been attempting to regularise the situation since 2018.

Ms Justice O’Regan said, based on the evidence before the court and decisions from the higher courts in relation to Section 160 applications, she was adjourning the action for a year.

This was to allow applications by the respondents to An Bord Pleanala, for substituted consent, and to Donegal County Council regarding the firms obtaining future planning permission to continue to use the site, to take their course.

Any closure of the respondents’ business would have adverse affect in Co Donegal, she said.