Bord Pleanála ‘gave 12 days’ notice’ for Cork incinerator hearing
Environmentalists accuse board of rushing hearing of submissions on Indaver project
An artist’s impression of the proposed waste-to-energy facility
A Cork environmental group has accused An Bord Pleanála of unfairness after it refused to defer an oral hearing into a proposed €160 million incinerator for Cork Harbour which will start hearing submissions in two weeks time.
Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment (Chase) said Bord Pleanála had refused its request for an extension to the oral hearing date for the Indaver Ireland planning application for the 240,000-tonne-per-annum municipal waste and hazardous waste incinerator at Ringaskiddy.
According to Chase, it wrote to the board following the receipt of letters from An Bord Pleanála on March 31st in which the planning authority advised that it intended holding the oral hearing on April 19th, leaving just 12 working days to prepare.
Chase chairperson Mary O’Leary accused the board of rushing the oral hearing, pointing out that the local community was being given less than two working weeks to prepare for a hearing, which on the basis of previous oral hearings into the project, could last several weeks.
“This preparation period of just 12 working days is in stark contrast with the consultation period of over 3½ years which Indaver have had with An Bord Pleanála to prepare this third planning application,” she said.
“There is no element of fairness in this process, which is heavily weighted towards the applicant. It is, to the best of our knowledge, the shortest oral hearing notice and the longest consultation period on record. We are being squeezed to our very core,” she said.
A spokesman for the board declined to comment on Chase’s statement but a planning source did point out any meetings that planning officials had with Indaver executives during the pre-planning application phase would have been at the request of Indaver.
“There were a total of six meetings over the course of 3½ years – any applicant is entitled to hold pre-planning meetings with An Bord Pleanála on any issue, so it would be the applicant that would drive the whole pre-planning application process,” said the source.
According to an inspector’s report from the board, planners met intermittently with Indaver executives between 2012 and 2015 with meetings on November 12th 2012, June 12th 2013, March 3rd 2015, July 16th 2015, September 11th 2015 and November 23rd 2015.
According to the report, the meetings, which would have been at the request of Indaver, addressed the need for clarity on how previous reasons for refusal cited by Bord Pleanála would be overcome in any new proposed application.
According to the planning source, Indaver then opted to bring the pre-planning application phase to a close by seeking a determination from the board on whether the incinerator met the terms of the Strategic Infrastructure Development Act.
The board ruled on December 23rd, 2015, that the incinerator did constitute a piece of strategic infrastructure as defined by the legislation and Indaver subsequently lodged a new planning application for the project under the act in January 2016.
According to Chase, Bord Pleanála have since received over 220 submissions objecting to the planned incinerator including objections from all four Cork South Central TDs including Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, and Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin.
These submissions, which included objections because of site unsuitability, accident risk and hazard, health concerns and gross conflict with the regeneration of the surrounding area, include submissions from the Permanent Defence Force Other Ranks Representative Association (PDFORRA) which represents 800 sailors based at nearby Haulbowline Naval Base.
They also include submissions from CIT Students’ Union president on behalf of students attending the National Maritime College of Ireland and submissions from the Teachers’ Union of Ireland representing lecturers at the college.