THE TAXPAYER has spent nearly €33m planning a superdump in north Dublin which was dramatically cancelled yesterday.
The four Dublin local authorities have decided not to go ahead with the Tooman Nevitt landfill, meaning they are left owning more than 205 hectares of land that are no longer needed.
The move comes because the councils claim they cannot afford to spend any more money on the project. Its total cost was expected to be €80m.
They also claim that because all four councils no longer collect waste and there have been "substantial changes" to national waste policy, the facility is no longer needed.
However, the Irish Independent has learned that the lead authority, Fingal, has spent more than €32.7m to date on land, consultancy fees and planning costs. Of this, €25m was paid for more than 205 hectares of land bought at the height of the boom between 2004 and 2008.
The council last night said the total landfill site was 210 hectares -- 57 hectares for the landfill itself, and 153 hectares as a 'buffer' zone.
A total of 205 hectares had been purchased -- 25 hectares within the landfill site and a further 180 hectares which would be offered to farmers forced to move out of the area.
In a statement, the council said the decision was only taken to cancel the project yesterday.
Yesterday was also the day it was legally obliged to tell landowners whether or not they would be buying the additional lands needed for the dump. Building the dump would have cost another €45m.
"Fingal County Council, in consultation with the three other Dublin local authorities, has decided not to proceed with the next step towards developing the site due to the large costs that would be involved and the changed circumstances which have rendered the project no longer viable," it said.
"Lands that were acquired for the development over four years ago remain in the ownership of the council but the council will not now proceed with the compulsory purchase order of further land in the area."
The project has been in planning since 1997 and the site at Tooman/Nevitt, about 12km north of Swords, was selected in 2004.
The dump was to be built on a site of 450 hectares, and would process 500,000 tonnes of waste a year and operate for up to 20 years.
An Bord Pleanala granted planning permission in October 2009 after three oral hearings, and the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) granted a waste licence last May following two public hearings.
But the project was marred by controversy from the start as the chosen site was located above an aquifer which supplies fresh water to vegetable growers in north Dublin. A judicial review of the EPA decision to grant a licence was only withdrawn last month.
Objectors last night said they were delighted with the decision.
"We are very happy and very relieved to see that sanity has prevailed," Nevitt Lusk Action Group spokeswoman Gemma Larkin said.
"We had confirmation this morning, but there had been rumours. There's no longer a need, and we have said that from the beginning. The financial situation was a factor as well. It's a good day. We didn't win many battles but the war is won."
The Dublin local authorities were ordered to develop a plant in 1997 because they were the only collectors of waste in the capital. At the time, there were no private collectors and the council had to manage and treat the waste where it was generated.
Private operators have since entered the market and they are free to dispose of the waste in any licensed facility in the State meaning that waste volumes at Tooman Nevitt could not be guaranteed.
The government has also imposed significant levies on landfills, while the amount paid to dispose to waste has fallen.