THE granting of planning permission for a waste plastics factory in Skibbereen by An Bord Pleanála was raised in the Upper House by Fine Gael Senator Tim Lombard.
‘The inspector’s report opposed the project, but the Board granted permission,’ he said. ‘That seems to be the way in which An Bord Pleanála has been doing its business of late. If one looks at other planning permissions regarding solar farms and an incinerator in Cork harbour, one will see the same process.
The independent inspector goes through the project, examines it, probably holds an oral hearing, compiles a report and then makes a recommendation to the board, which is ignored, before it grants permission. It is an issue that needs to be examined.’
Senator Lombard said a judicial review of decisions of An Bord Pleanála can be requested, but asked if there is an audit conducted of its decisions. ‘Is there an independent planning inspectorate that steps back and examines how the board deals with these issues?’ he asked. ‘There is an issue here, particularly in respect of environmental projects, which can involve jobs and employment on one side and environmental issues on the other.
The board seems to lean towards regarding the potential for jobs as more valuable than the environment.
We have seen that with an incinerator, and with solar farms, and now we are seeing it with the plastics
factory in Skibbereen.
He called for the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Eoghan Murphy to be brought to the Seanad to discuss the planning affairs of the State to see what can be done to ensure that the decisions made are appropriate and, if not, to see what can be done to ensure applicants do not have to go through the expensive process of a judicial review. ‘It is an issue which has to be raised and on which change is needed,’ he added.
In reply, the Acting Leader of the Seanad, Senator Catherine Noone said the very idea that a plastics factory is opening somewhere in Ireland ‘makes me see red’.
‘I know plastic is still being used extensively throughout the world but we need to look to ban single-use plastic,’ she said. ‘I do not know the type of plant this is but a discussion on An Bord Pleanála, with the Minister present, could be very useful to have in the New Year.’