Opponents of a plastics factory proposed for Skibbereen, Co Cork are to apply to the High Court for leave to bring judicial review proceedings over An Bord Pleanála's rejection of their appeal of the decision to grant planning permission for the plant.
Cork County Council granted permission for the factory to Daly Products Ltd, an Irish division of a Minnesota-based plastics firm RTP, last December.
Concerned residents, acting under the Save Our Skibbereen banner, appealed the decision, arguing that they were not adequately informed about potential environmental and health implications of living near a thermoplastics factory.
The company invited them to a public consultation last year and responded to the council’s requests for further information on its planning application.
However, the residents insisted that an environmental impact assessment (EIA) being carried out to determine if there was any potential impact on the town’s air quality and its wastewater treatment system from the plant.
The group has outlined concerns about fire risk, and possible water contamination from small pellets known as nurdles, a by-product of plastic manufacturing. While they are inherently non-toxic, they act as sponges over time and can absorb chemicals found in water. Marine species often consume nurdles, mistaking them for fish eggs.
Brendan McCormack, of Save our Skibbereen, said the group was “desperately disappointed”, especially as the authority had gone against its own advisory reports, which recommended permission be refused.
An Bord Pleanála has applied some conditions on the development, which are expected to be made public on Wednesday.
“It’s astounding that in 2018 when everyone is so concerned about plastic pollution, that a plastics factory is now being put in Skibbereen on the Wild Atlantic Way. It really goes against the grain,” Mr McCormack said.
More than 6,400 people have signed a petition opposing the plant, which was initiated separately a week ago.
The plant was due to be located on land re-zoned from “greenbelt” to “light industrial” at Poundlick on the outskirts of the town, Mr McCormack said, as a consequence of which it was felt an EIA was not necessary.
However, he said its potential impact on protected habitats also needed to be independently evaluated – the site is two miles from the Lough Hyne marine conservation site.
Mr McCormack said the EPA had also deemed that the facility – due to employ up to 40 people – did not need an “integrated pollution control licence” which circumvented the possibility of an oral hearing at which their concerns could be fully spelt out.
The group is to hold a public meeting in Skibbereen on December 13th to outline its opposition to the plant.
The Green Party cited potential environmental impacts of the facility from emissions and chemical run-off entering the town’s sewage treatment system.
Senator Grace O’Sullivan, the party’s spokeswoman on environmental protection, said that “at a time when we should be moving away from plastics” the planned development represented “a huge step in the wrong direction”.
A statement has been sought from RTP on the concerns raised by the residents’ group.