Monday 20 May 2019

Residents furious as permission granted for controversial €160m waste incinerator

Locals have previously protested against the project
Locals have previously protested against the project

Ralph Riegel

RESIDENTS have reacted with fury to the decision by An Bord Pleanala (ABP) to grant planning permission to a controversial €160m waste incinerator project in Cork.

The decision followed more than 10 postponements of an announcement over the past two years on a decision about the plan by Indaver to develop a major incinerator at Ringaskiddy in Cork harbour.

The shock decision means that Indaver have been given the green light to develop a project they first proposed over 18 years ago.

The project has been the focus of three separate planning applications.

An artist's impression of the project
An artist's impression of the project

Cork harbour residents have now vowed to challenge the decision - and, if necessary, to appeal the incinerator planning all the way to the European Court.

Letters confirming the decision to grant planning were being delivered to environmental action groups and objectors across Cork today.

The planning ruling was adjourned early last year after further information was sought on claims its operation could impact on military flights into Haulbowline Naval Base.

Indaver has insisted that construction and operation of the incinerator will in no way impact on military flights to the nearby naval base.

Data in support of that assurance was submitted to ABP.

However, Cork Harbour for a Safe Environment (CHASE), who have fought the project for almost two decades, dismissed the Indaver assurances as "farcical."

They have also urged ABP to treat Cork harbour residents with respect.

A decision was originally expected on the planning issue in July 2016.

CHASE Chairperson Mary O'Leary had challenged why so much time was being taken over the ruling - and why such additional time was afforded to Indaver.

"Indaver has been engaged with ABP since August 2012 which is more than adequate time to submit a comprehensive and detailed submission," she said.

ABP was considering the incinerator proposal in light of a two month oral hearing last year.

CHASE concluded their submissions to the hearing with the warning it was “the wrong project in totally the wrong place.”

Indaver, insisted that the 240,000 tonne incinerator will have no environmental impact and will provide Ireland with an critical asset to process waste, much of its produced by industry in the Cork harbour area.

Indaver boss, John Ahern, repeated his insistence that waste will not be imported for treatment at the complex.

Senior Cork politicians united to warn the incinerator proposal was “an outdated project” which threatens the future development of one of the world’s great natural harbours.

Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, Tanaiste and Fine Gael TD, Simon Coveney and Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath all made strong personal submissions to the oral hearing.

The Indaver proposal for Ringaskiddy was first tabled 18 years ago and is now under its third consideration phase.

Mr Coveney warned that it was “inconceivable” for a major incinerator to be developed in a harbour area where the Government has already invested millions in a marine college, clean-energy research centres and the clean-up of the old Irish Steel/Irish Ispat site on Haulbowline island.

“I am fundamentally opposed to what is being proposed and where it is being proposed for,” Mr Coveney said.

“I have spent a lot of time around the Cabinet table making the case for significant investment in Cork harbour.”

“We have a master plan for Spike Island and a master plan for Haulbowline Island. What we are creating at the heart of Cork harbour is something very special and of national significance.”

Mr Martin rejected the incinerator as “a totally outdated project.”

“Cork is a beautiful natural harbour. We have an opportunity to prevent this destruction of the visual landscape,” he said.

“It seems to me from the (planners) guarded comments, and they are guarded, that this is going to have an incredible impact on the harbour.”

Mr Martin said that while the incinerator might have made sense 18 years ago, the world has moved on since then with viable waste management alternatives now available.

Fianna Fáil finance spokesman, Michael McGrath, said it was “terribly unfair” that harbour residents should have to live with the spectre of a new incinerator proposal seven years after it was emphatically rejected by ABP.

CHASE warned that the incinerator proposal will be fought tooth and nail, if necessary all the way to the European Court.

The environmental group challenged Indaver over submissions to the hearing on dioxin figures based on soil samples.

Ms O’Leary said the project runs contrary to the development goals for Cork harbour and, in particular, the Ringaskiddy-Haulbowline area.

“The site is fundamentally unsuitable and all Indaver’s problems stem from this. The expertise and the knowledge we have in our community is second to none and something that we are all very proud of.”

“We are a proud community, a strong community and a united community,” she said.

However, Indaver’s boss argued that the incinerator was a critical part of Ireland facing up to its waste management responsibilities at EU level.

Mr Ahern pointed out that it was simply unsustainable for hazardous waste to be continually exported from Cork from major pharmaceutical and chemical plants in the region for treatment overseas.

“We had been granted permission before for the industrial and hazardous waste part of our project,” he said.

“We have always argued that Cork needs a solution to its household waste. We believe that both of those needs are coming together and are recognised by the waste authority saying we need a municipal, hazardous and industrial facility in Cork and Munster,” he said.

The current application is Indaver’s third since 2001.

The new proposal differs in that it will include a smaller hazardous waste incineration element – though the municipal or domestic waste incineration element will double in size.

It is now expected to cater for 200,000 rather than 100,000 tonnes of domestic waste annually.

In total, the revised proposal will involve a waste-to-energy facility capable of handling 240,000 tonnes of commercial, industrial, hazardous and domestic waste each year.

Online Editors

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News