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Concerned locals voice their fears about planned plastics factory for Skibbereen

January 17th, 2018 8:32 PM

By Southern Star Team

Members of the public at the plastics factory meeting in Skibbereen. (Photo: Anne Minihane)

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The local people objecting to the planned plastics factory for Skibbereen have outlined their exact opposition to the plant.

In a detailed submission, sent to The Southern Star, they have explained their exact fears for the future of Skibbereen, if the factory goes ahead in its present form. This submission was brought to the attention of the public at a recent meeting, held in the town, to discuss the plant, and here we publish it in full, at the request of the organising committee:

'The main concerns of the 39 members of the public who made submissions to Planning Application Reference Number 17/192:

Obviously some of these concerns are more local to the area in close proximity to the site in question but many are more universal and have implications on Skibbereen as a whole. The concerns outlined are summarised as follows in no particular order;   

 The land was rezoned as 'Business' in April 2016. None of us were informed that this was  happening as it is up to every member of the public to watch out in the national newspapers for these rezonings. We feel that this development does not fit into this zoning category which is 'Light industry including car showrooms etc' .   

 The unknown nature of the processes involved. What chemicals are being used? The emissions and odours related to these substances and their effect on the environment, air quality and obviously the health implications for all of us and our families living in the area and also in the wider Skibbereen area.     

The visual impact of a development of this size, just under 5000m^2, in the area. This does not fit in with the existing units on the site and certainly not with the residential amenity in the area. The area is immediately adjacent to many family homes as well as farms. The existing units on the site, the last of which was built in 1982, are much smaller in scale and are much more suitably positioned on the IDA lands.     

The emissions and odours released from the 17m high stacks will be carried by the prevailing wind into Skibbereen town over the adjacent Nursing Home and Retirement Village, near our soccer and athletics clubs and also over many houses and farms. There is, we feel, insufficient information regarding these emissions.     

Concerns were also raised in relation to the discharge of materials and water used for washing metals into the watercourses with these eventually making their way into the Ilen River and further downstream to the Area of Special Conversation at Roaringwater Bay and the existing aquacultural industry there.     

The development is proposed to be right up against the small, rural, local road which runs behind the site linking the Coom Hill Road to the Golf Club road. The layout of the development on the site is not, we feel, in line with proper planning guidelines for the protection of the environment along this dedicated cycle and walking route.     

There will be a huge increase in Noise Levels in the area. This development is proposed to run on a 24 hour basis which is not the case with the existing units on the IDA lands therefore this will be a major change and is a major concern of almost all who made submissions.

Some of the people living close by have health conditions where noise is a huge contributing factor for them and they are very fearful of the impact this dramatic increase in noise levels will have. There will also be a huge change in terms of light pollution due to the facility being run on a 24 hour basis after the other units have been closed down.     

Farmers in the track of the prevailing wind have major concerns about potential toxins emanating from the facility onto their lands, affecting their animals' health and entering the human food chain. Farmers on lands lower than the site in question also have concerns in this regard relating to ground water and materials entering the watercourses.     

There was no EIA or EIS carried out or submitted by the developer nor was there one sought by Cork Co Co. The company were just below the threshold level required, as they were in many aspects of the planning and it was not required of them for this reason.

We felt strongly that the Council should have requested them to carry out an EIS as a result of the various environmental concerns highlighted by the 39 submissions and we were amazed that one was not sought in the further information. We would much rather see our concerns answered and alleviated by these studies carried out independently or by a body such as the EPA rather than just going on the word of the experts commissioned by the developers themselves.     

The design of the proposed development indicates a generic design and not a site specific design. The site in question is convoluted and totally irregular in shape and this generic design does not fit in with it. The site is in a predominantly residential area and should have had a site-specific design.     

There is an ongoing problem with traffic in Skibbereen and with getting larger vehicles through the town. The addition of a large production facility on the Baltimore Road will only compound this problem for everybody. These HGVs, up to 6 per day at production stage, will have to travel down North St, the narrowest street in town and already difficult to negotiate for HGVs, travel back in Townsend St and either over Bridge St (also narrow) or back up North St. These HGVs will be bringing plastic pellets which have come in from abroad. The pellets will be heated, added to, cooled and cut back into pellets on site before being transported again back up the same road through Skibbereen Town Centre.

This does not make sense to us and doesn't make business sense.  Surely a facility nearer to the point of entry into the country would make more sense.     People may argue that there are already HGVs using these streets and routes and what difference will 6 more a day make or approximately 2100 per year. However the existing HGVs are delivering products to businesses such as supermarkets which remain in this area and are not being taken back up the same road or collecting products such as furniture and fish - again there is a purpose to the journeys they undertake.     

We also have a concern regarding the fire hazard and what would happen if there were a fire at the facility. All controls would, pardon the pun, go out the window in such an eventuality with catastrophic consequences for Skibbereen. In Summary;     Why are we calling this meeting? Over the last number of months since the planning application went in, we have been amazed by the large number of people who don't know anything about this development being proposed and most of these are not happy when they hear about it. This meeting is to raise awareness among the local population about it and also to outline the concerns of the 39 members of the public who made submissions.     

We are certainly not anti jobs or anti development. Many of us are employers ourselves. But it has to fit in with the area in which it is being proposed and not just 'any jobs at any cost' .     Skibbereen has had lots of good news stories in relation to jobs in recent times notably in the tech area and Spearline for example employ already more people than this development is proposing in a town centre location and has recently bought a landmark building in Skibbereen which will be refurbished and will create further employment. The Ludgate Digital Hub is a brilliant development in the town, again bringing in employment. This is a new exciting kind of jobs development which Skibbereen is experiencing.     

Skibbereen and its hinterland is synonymous with beautiful West Cork, situated on the Wild Atlantic Way with the huge boost to tourism and all that has been associated with this. We have some of the best food producers in the country in our immediate vicinity.     

The BT Young Scientists exhibition is currently on in Dublin and yesterday morning I heard on the radio some bright young students talking about their projects. The first one I heard was doing a project about plastic and the effects of it on the environment. The world is trying to reduce the amount of plastic being used and building a plastics factory in scenic Skibbereen on the Wild Atlantic Way is not in keeping with this.     

This morning on Morning Ireland, Dr. Peter Heffernan, CEO of the Marine Institute was talking about the need for humans to change their behaviour in terms of their use of plastic. He said 8 million tonnes of plastic a year is dumped into our oceans. If this trend continues, by 2050 there will be more weight of plastic in the oceans than weight of fish!     

We feel our concerns are genuine, have been well thought out and are well made. We would not have many of these concerns if the development on the site was in keeping with the existing units. We are certainly not as someone accused us of being over the weekend "a minority of locals with nothing else to do but object to everything". I for one have never objected to anything in my life.

Someone else commented " PIFFLE. What a ridiculous thing to object to. West Cork needs jobs and industry".     

Most of us who made submissions have lived in Skibbereen all our lives and are very active members of the community in many different ways. I would like to think that people in a similar situation in any town in Ireland would have the same concerns.   

 We are appealing the granting of planning permission to An Board Pleanála, as is our right in planning law, having made original submissions and have engaged a planning consultant to do this appeal on our behalf. Of course we are well aware that An Board Pleanála may uphold the decision of Cork Co Co but at least they may enforce further conditions.

This meeting will not feed into our appeal.     

We realise that this may prove unpopular in certain quarters but we feel we owe it to ourselves, our families and to the people of Skibbereen to ensure that correct procedures, guidelines and safety concerns are addressed, implemented and monitored'.

 

• For a full report on the recent public meeting, see this week's Southern Star, out tomorrow.

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