Planning permission given for quarrying at woodland

 

Wicklow County Council has decided to grant Roadstone Dublin Ltd planning permission to quarry 80 acres of land in Blessington which were controversially rezoned last year.

The decision to allow quarrying over a 15-year period precedes the announcement of a High Court ruling by Mrs Justice McGuinness on the legality of the rezoning of Glen Ding Wood and other sites in the Blessington Development Plan.

The rezoning is expected to be among the planning decisions investigated by the Flood planning tribunal.

The Fianna Fail TD for Wicklow, Mr Dick Roche, expressed anger at the council's decision which he said would further undermine local people's confidence in the county's planning process. The granting of planning permission would be appealed to An Bord Pleanala and the rezoning could yet be found by the High Court to have been illegal, he said.

"The whole manner in which this has been handled by public authorities has been absolutely reprehensible. This is a Christmas bombshell for the people of Wicklow," he told The Irish Times. "If Wicklow County Council thinks that by issuing planning permission for this in Christmas week people will forget about it, then they are very much mistaken. It will simply harden people's resolve to oppose it".

The sale and rezoning of Glen Ding Wood, Deerpark, which heritage groups say is of great archaeological importance, have been the subject of much controversy. In 1992 Roadstone Dublin Ltd purchased a 147-acre site from the Department of Energy by private treaty for £1.25 million.

At the time, the late Mr Des Traynor, was chairman of CRH of which Roadstone is a subsidiary. Roadstone has stressed that Mr Traynor was a non-executive chairman of the company and could have played no role whatever in such purchases.

In September 1996, 80 acres of the land were rezoned by the council from amenity use to quarrying. This decision was challenged in the High Court by the Blessington Heritage Trust and a ruling on the legality of the Blessington Development Plan is expected in the next few weeks.

Earlier this year Roadstone Dublin Ltd applied for planning permission and this was granted late on Friday afternoon by Wicklow County Council.

A Labour Party councillor, Mr Tom Cullen, said he was "astonished" that permission for quarrying had been granted before the High Court judgment being given on the rezoning which had facilitated this permission.