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The Local Planet - 04.03.05
Frustrated Communities
Inconsistency and lack of transparency in decision making

Dear Editor
One would want to be living on a desert island not to be aware of the increasing frequency of opposition to developments and major infrastructures in Ireland and one has to ask why ?

There are serious issues that must be addressed. Communities who find themselves embroiled in objecting to projects do not do so lightly, it is at huge cost to them personally and economically. They are involved not because they have nothing better to do but because they know it is they who must be the guardians of their community, their environment and home. Until they can have confidence in the process and until that process is transparent, this situation will continue.

Public consultation and truly democratic decision-making are fundamental to the principles on which our constitution is based. I believed in the process of national policy being decided through debate and discussion and being drafted into law by those we elect, for the greater good of the country at large.

However as a member of a community who has followed the democratic process to the letter and engaged at every level whole-heartedly, I now realise this is not how business gets done.
CHASE as an organisation has participated in a planning oral hearing and an EPA oral hearing, where we as the community presented our case, brought forward expert witnesses, cross examined those of the other side and debated the issues that were of concern to us.

In his report on the Planning Oral Hearing for the proposed Toxic Waste incinerator in Ringaskiddy, the Chief Planning Inspector gave 14 reasons why this facility should not get planning permission, one of them being that he could not guarantee this development did not pose a threat to public safety.

The proposal is also contrary to National policies namely, the National Spatial Strategy, the National Hazardous Waste Management Plan, the Proximity Principle, the Precautionary Principle. (Ref. Oral Hearing Ringaskiddy 2003,

It is in breach of international policies, to which the Government by way of International Agreement is a consenting Party. These include the Stockholm Convention on the reduction and elimination of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), the Rio Convention on Biodiversity and the Kyoto Protocol on Global Warming.

Yet despite this, on the nod of 10 political appointees ( the Bord of an Bord Pleanala) all of these policies and warnings have been ignored, the Board overruled their own inspector (BEARING IN MIND THE INSPECTOR IS THE BOARD’S OWN EXPERT AT THE HEARINGS) and decided to make this community some type of “sacrificial zone”.

If you or I were applying for planning for a house and the shape of the windows was wrong, we would be turned down! Why then shouldn’t a community who have won the argument on the planning issues at every stage, not feel frustrated and disenfranchised.

What needs to be made clear in this whole debate is that one needs to distinguish between National policy and Government policy and there-in lies the problem. The Government has decided, for whatever reason, to foist incineration upon the country as a means of waste management. It does not fit well with policies that have been adopted but somehow or other they will shoehorn it in. If not by consensus, then by stealth and, lets call a spade a spade, . .. ...... spin.

The government by promoting an activity which will damage out health (ref. EPA Oral Hearing 2005), will also do irreparable damage to our environment. Not to give support to the promotion of safer alternatives or to the nurturing of sustainable clean businesses and technologies, which will spring up due to the expansion of recycling efforts, is clearly short sighted.

We are back at the old Nuclear power debate. The Government say we need incineration or we will be left behind by the rest of Europe, in he same way they said the same thing about nuclear power, thirty years ago. The people of the time said “no, there are better ways”, and today we are one of the leading economies of Europe, without nuclear power.

We know there are better ways forward in waste management, there are many new technologies and approaches that will allow us deal with our waste in the 21st century, using 21st century solutions.

We as a nation are coming to the waste debate rather late, at a time when other countries are now looking at other technologies and enlightened ways of dealing with the waste issue. We have a perfect opportunity to use up the spare incineration capacity in Europe, which exists, while we develop better and more innovative ways of treating and minimizing our waste. The rate of building incinerators in Europe has also slowed due to our international commitments, the WHO and the Stockholm Convention wants to rid the world of ‘POPs’ so damaging are they to our environment and health.

The EU guidance is as follows:
–“The Commission does not promote incineration. We do not consider that this technique is favourable to the environment or that it is necessary to ensure a stable supply of waste for combustion over the long term.”

We now know from the EPA Oral Hearing 2005, that no risk assessment on health or on flora and fauna has been done, which means that the effects of the operation of this development on the community has not been addressed at all. (EPA Guidelines).

The reasons the Chief Planning Inspector recommended refusal for this facility still exist. The threat to public safety is still there. The same Environment Impact Statement has been submitted by this company to the EPA, as was to the Planning Oral Hearing where it was deemed as “legally inadequate and fails to conform to the mandatory requirement.” (Inspector’s Report, An Bord Pleanala 04.131196)

This is a waste industry which is poorly regulated yet it deals with waste that is highly regulated. This is a genuine concern for the community and should also be of great concern to the pharm-chemical industry, in relation to the fact that this facility will have a monopoly on the hazardous waste handled in Ireland, if it were to go ahead. Proper planning and waste licence application has not been followed here. This is a matter of public record now. The burden of proof should not rest on the community, it should be protected by our National policies, which need to be properly implemented and funded and not sit on shelves to be ignored.

Communities do not want to set national policies, they want to see them being implemented. What they do object to is these same policies being ignored and bandied about in the interest of ”Government policy” as opposed to National policy.

We have now been through a second Oral Hearing with the EPA, where the community again looked for answers to questions we were told would be addressed at this stage of the process. Yet when we as a community asked these questions at this stage, they are not answered.

The curious division between the respective roles of the planning authority and the EPA has not helped in the process, as both seem to function as if in a vacuum. This cannot lead to sound planning decisions. Is it any wonder communities are frustrated when they witness such inconsistency and lack of transparency. If such communities had faith in a process they saw served them well, we would not be at this state of impasse.

A quote from the Governments commissioned report into the effects of incineration on health, sums up the issue well;
“Public trust, whether it is placed in the regulators, in compliance with the regulations or in the information provided, will be fundamental in achieving even a modicum of consensus for any future developments in waste policy in Ireland”.

Yours sincerely,
Mary O’Leary B.Sc., Dip. Env. Sc.
Spy Hill


Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment
Bishop's Road, Cobh, Co. Cork
Tel - 021 481 5564      Email -
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