The managing director of the company behind plans for a €160 million incinerator for Cork Harbour has insisted the facility is necessary to handle Cork's waste but opponents of the project say that opposition has grown since it was last refused planning permission by An Bord Pleanála.
Speaking on the eve of a third An Bord Pleanála oral hearing into the project, Indaver Ireland Managing director John Ahern said the proposed Ringaskiddy incinerator, catering for 240,000 tonnes per year of both municipal and hazardous waste, would form a vital part of Cork's waste management infrastructure.
Mr Ahern confirmed that Indaver Ireland had submitted a tender to Cork County Council to use its €48 million landfill site at Bottlehill in north Cork with a view to disposing of ash residue from municipal waste burned at the proposed incinerator if planning permission is given.
He explained that under the original 1995 waste management plan for Cork, a mechanical biological treatment (MBT) plant was to be located on the Kinsale Road landfill in the city and later at Rossmore in west Cork with the residual waste being sent to the purpose-built landfill at Bottlehill.
However no site could be found for the MBT plant and waste is instead exported but if planning is given for the Ringaskiddy incinerator, which would handled 200,000 tonnes of municipal waste and 40,000 tonnes of hazardous waste, ash from municipal waste would be sent to Bottlehill.
"If we are successful in Ringaskiddy and if we secure the landfill, Cork will go very quickly from the 1995 scenario and years of arguing to having an integrated waste-management system that is as good as city or county anywhere else in Europe, " he said.
“Cork will have recycling, there is a digester for organic waste approved for Little island, an incinerator and a landfill – they are the main building blocks of any integrated waste management and we could be putting these in place by the end of the year.”
However, opponents of the proposed incinerator say the fact that Indaver have applied for planning permission for the project a third time after twice being refused has only made people more determined and opposition to the project has grown in the Cork Harbour area.
A protest march organised by Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment (Chase) is planned for 9.40am on Tuesday outside the Carrigaline Court Hotel where the An Bord Pleanála oral hearing is due to commence at 10.30am with three weeks being set aside for the hearing.
Linda Fitzpatrick of Chase pointed out that An Bord Pleanála inspectors had recommended refusal of planning permission following oral hearings in both 2003 and 2009 with An Bord Pleanála accepting its inspector recommendation in 2009.
Ms Fitzpatrick pointed out that in 2003, the then inspector dealing with the case, Philip Jones recommended refusal on an unprecedented 14 grounds but his refusal was overturned by the board of An Bord Pleanála.
The eventual rejection in 2011 was carried on the grounds of inadequate mitigation for coastal erosion, inadequate mitigation for flooding, the site being too small for the proposed development and the project not fitting with County Development Plans, she said.
“Indaver has cast a long shadow over us as a community since 2001. We have been engaged in this for 15 years now, at a cost of around €500,000 to the community. We believe the site and location are more unsuitable than ever and opposition is stronger than ever and the anger is palpable.
“The context of the Ringaskiddy peninsula has changed immeasurably since 2001. It is now home to a thriving hub of tourism, R&D and education, into which the government has invested or committed to investing €500 million, and Indaver directly threatens this continued investment.
"We want to guarantee the positive development and investment in Cork Harbour and move away from our existing high levels of background contamination, move past the toxic slag heaps on Haulbowline, and see cancer rates in line with the national average, not 44 per cent above it.
"Our councillors unanimously passed a resolution objecting to it, all four of our TDs have lodged submissions objecting to it, PDFORRA [Permanent Defence Force Other Ranks Representative Association] has objected on behalf of their members at Haulbowline, TUI on behalf of their members at NMCI [National Maritime College of Ireland], CIT Students union on behalf of the student body at NMCI."