SIR – The primary function of An Bord Pleanála is make decisions which respect the principles of proper planning and sustainable development in a fair, equitable manner including the protection of the environment in line with Government and EU policy and legislation.
Government planning policy mandates that the right development takes place in the right location and at the right time. Environmental design, planning and sustainable development also require the most efficient and effective use of previously-developed (brownfield) land over greenfield land to ensure the most efficient use of existing infrastructure.
While recycling of plastic waste is laudable, the recent decision by the Board of An Bord Pleanála to grant permission for the plastics factory on the outskirts of Skibbereen is absolutely unsustainable on all fronts and reflect other priorities of the board of An Bord Pleanála, which highlight the lack of understanding of the principles of implementing sustainable industrial development in Ireland.
For example, the decision grants permission for the extraction of approximately 60,000 tonnes of soil and subsoil from a greenfield site without adequate offsite disposal to suitable landfills in the wider area to dispose of this material or adequate waste water facilities in place to treat the effluents emitted from the proposed facility.
Moreover, the development will involve waste being imported to Ireland and transported all the way to West Cork for reprocessing instead of being located near a major industrial site in the environs of Cork city or near the source of production of such waste. It is important to also note that the nearest sensitive dwelling to this development is just 30m from the site boundary.
Despite the above and the widespread public concern regarding the environmental risks associated with this development and the lack of adequate environmental impact assessment to ascertain the risks to both public health and the environment, An Bord Pleanála have nevertheless deemed the development acceptable. Ultimately, this decision highlights their lack of transparency and fairness in addressing public concerns and wider environmental costs for the benefit of profit and the private sector.
Moreover, the decision of the Board of An Bord Pleanála to reject the findings of its own planning inspector’s report, which recommended refusal of planning permission, as also occurred in the recent controversial decision of the Board for the incinerator development in Ringaskiddy, reflects a lack of transparency and reliance on the professional expertise, integrity, dedication and public service ethos of its staff in undertaking their duties and responsibilities.
I want to add one final point. Of the ten current members of the board appointed by the Government and Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, not one is an environmental scientist. Of note, the now Tánaiste, Deputy Simon Coveney was responsible for appointing five new members to the board in 2017 and the current chair of the board, Mr David Walsh, was appointed last week by Deputy Eoghan Murphy, the current Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government. Mr Walsh previously worked in his Department as Assistant Secretary.
That said, perhaps, the only way to ensure transparency and sustainable development by An Bord Pleanála is to replace the current government who appointed the Board in the next general election and for the public to demand that they have a say in who gets nominated to this high office in the public interest.
Environmental Scientist &
Risk Management Consultant,