Former Irish Steel site could be converted into a park by 2016

Planning hearing told of €92m project at Haulbowline in Cork Harbour

Industrial waste from the abandoned Irish Steel plant at Haulbowline, with Cobh cathedral in the background. Photograph: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

Industrial waste from the abandoned Irish Steel plant at Haulbowline, with Cobh cathedral in the background. Photograph: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

 

A near-€100 million project to convert the former Irish Steel plant at Haulbowline in Cork Harbour into a public park could be completed by 2016, an oral hearing into a planning application for the project was told yesterday.

Some €52 million has been spent since 2004 on demolishing and clearing the former plant, and the Government has ring-fenced a further €40 million to carry out remediation on the site and the tip at the eastern end of the island in Cork Harbour.

According to Cork County Council director of the environment Sharon Corcoran, the work is dependent on the council obtaining planning permission and an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) licence.

Contractor
“We anticipate that the remediation will take 18 months from the appointment of a contractor to carry out the work.

“We hope to get planning permission from An Bord Pleanála in April, and a licence from the EPA by year’s end, so we would hope to have the work done by 2016.”

Yesterday’s An Bord Pleanála oral hearing heard from remediation project manager Cormac Ó Suilleabhain that steel production at the Haulbowline site between 1939 and 2001 led to the creation of the East Tip on the island.

He said the tip covered nine hectares and had 650,000 cubic metres of material, of which almost two-thirds was slag material from the former steel plant, which closed in 2001.

The Government transferred responsibility from the Department of the Environment to the Department of Agriculture in June 2011 at the request of Minister for Agriculture and local Cork South Central TD Simon Coveney, and the remediation project began in August 2011.

Contaminants
Cecelia MacCleod, of consultants White Young Green, told the hearing that analysis of the site showed the existence of contaminants associated with steel works such as arsenic, copper, cadmium, chromium, mercury, nickel, lead and manganese. There were also hydrocarbons.

She said there were no risks identified with the site for the wider community now or in the longer term, but there were potential human health risks for site-users in its current state. The remediation project would address this.

Larry O’Toole of RPS Consultants said the work would involve the reshaping of the East Tip, the creation of low-permeability capping on the waste, and the construction of a perimeter structure around the site to prevent erosion and waste entering the sea.

Decision
Ms Corcoran confirmed that An Bord Pleanála was due to issue a decision on the Cork County Council planning application by April 24th which, if granted, would allow detailed design for construction to begin.