A company proposing the construction of an incinerator at Ringaskiddy in Cork says Irish waste management policy has changed in recent years and the need for incineration is now well recognised.
Indaver Ireland was refused planning permission for an incinerator on a Cork Harbour site in 2011 but an oral hearing into the company's latest €160 million proposal for such a facility got underway in Cork yesterday.
Rory Mulcahy SC, for Indaver, said a significant factor in the refusal of permission five years ago was the fact that the use of incineration to treat municipal waste did not accord with the relevant policies of the time.
“The development proposed is now entirely in accordance with both waste and energy policy at national, regional and local level,” said Mr Mulcahy.
He added that regional waste authorities now recognise the need for incinerators with capacity for 300,000 tonnes of municipal waste annually.
Mr Mulcahy said regional waste management plans now note a need for the thermal treatment of 50,000 tonnes of hazardous waste. In the case of Cork, much of this waste is generated within the Cork Harbour area, which makes Ringaskiddy an appropriate site for the incinerator, he added.
An Bord Pleanála Inspector Derek Daly confirmed that the board has received in excess of 260 submissions on the application which Indaver Ireland is making under the Strategic Infrastructure Act and that three weeks have been set aside for the hearing.
A third smaller
Dave Coakley, a planning policy expert witness for Indaver Ireland, said the new incinerator application was notable in that it was a third smaller than the previous applications with the footprint of the plant being reduced from over 11,000sq metres to 9,300 sq metres.
Mr Coakley also told the hearing in the Carrigaline Court Hotel, which was attended by about 200 people, that the chimney stack of the incinerator had been reduced from 85 metres in the previous application to 70 metres. This would reduce its visual impact on the landscape, he said.
Suggestions that the incinerator might be located at a Cork County Council landfill at Bottlehill, between Cork and Mallow, failed to take account of the fact that site was not zoned as an industrial area nor was it located within a Strategic Employment Area, said Mr Coakley.
The Ringaskiddy site meets both these criteria as well benefitting from closer proximity to producers of hazardous and industrial waste and producers of municipal waste, he said. Ringaskiddy also offered the possibility of a future district heating network from the energy obtained from incineration, Mr Coakley added.
Earlier, Cork East Labour TD Seán Sherlock, in a submission opposing the development, pointed out that the outgoing government had invested €29 million in the Marine Renewable Energy Ireland (MaREI) at the Irish Maritime and Energy Resource Cluster (IMERC) in Ringakiddy.
He expressed concern that the development of an incinerator in Ringaskiddy, in close proximity to MaREI and IMREC, would compromise future investment in the ventures which offer huge potential to create jobs in the clean technology sector.
Solicitor Joe Noonan, for Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment (Chase), pointed out that the planning application was in the name of Indaver Ireland Ltd but the 13.55 hectare site earmarked for the incinerator is registered to a different entity, Belgian company, Indaver NV.
Prior to the start of the oral hearing, about 300 anti-incinerator campaigners staged a protest outside the hotel with several public representatives pointing out that they were unanimously opposed to the project and granting it planning permission would be an affront to democracy.
Among those protesting outside the hotel was Fianna Fáil Cllr Seamus McGrath who pointed out that councillors had expressed unanimous opposition at a council meeting earlier this month to the proposed incinerator.
"This whole process has been anti-democratic – the key policy change was when Minister of State at the Department of the Environment Paudie Coffey directly intervened in the County Development Plan and in my view that was a disgraceful intervention, directly overruling elected councillors.